Analysis: What are Icelandic Voters Trying to Tell the World on Icesave? Skip to content

Analysis: What are Icelandic Voters Trying to Tell the World on Icesave?

After the almost unanimous no on the Icesave-law everyone wants to interpret the result to his liking. A Dutch reporter says: “Icelandic voters vented their fury on Saturday at the bankers and politicians who ruined their economy.” Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir says that this was expected, Finance Minister Steingrímur Sigfússon say a “surprising number of people said yes.” (Less than 2% said yes).

All seem to miss the mood of the general public. Yes it is true that the public is angry at the reckless businessmen who ruined the country and the politicians who did not step in. However, the mood at the coffee tables around Iceland was that the old colonial powers of Holland and Great Britain were trying to bully Iceland in to an unfair agreement. “The Brits are trying to punish us now because they lost the cod wars,” one salesperson said on Friday.

Many people were furious at the Prime Minister for downplaying the significance of the election. “How can she say this? She should be the guardian of the country, not a representative for our enemies.” In recent opinion polls the Social Democrats, lead by the Prime Minister, have sunk into third place behind both the Independence Party and the Left Green. It would not be surprising if the popularity would go down even further now. A journalist said that he had had enough and officially quit the party on Thursday.

Sigfússon told journalists that he was not about to resign. “Can you point out anybody who wants my job?” he asked on Saturday night. “We must continue because the country is facing difficult problems, not because we like being in power under the current conditions.” His party has been gaining popularity in recent polls and is now the second largest party after the Independence Party. However, a number of his parliamentary group openly opposed the Icesave-law. Former Minister of Health, Ögmundur Jónasson, who resigned over the matter in September, is said to no longer be on speaking terms with his Chairman.

Ásmundur Dadi Einarsson, leader of Heimssýn, the movement against Iceland joining the EU, voted with his chairman in Althingi. The same can be said of the leader of the Parliamentary group of the Left Green, Gudfrídur Lilja Grétarsdóttir. Both said they would vote no in the referendum.

Within the Social Democratic parliamentary group many members are getting tired of what they see as attempts of the Left Green to stop foreign investment, both on aluminum plants and huge international data centers. They see this as adding to the uncertainty associated with Icesave. The International Monetary Fund and the Nordic nations have refused to pay out loans to Iceland unless the Icesave issue is settled. Now many fear that Iceland’s public debt will be relegated to junk status.

The Icelandic public see all of this as an attempt by the international community to kick the nation when it is already on its knees because of the economic disasters.

The only way to move forward would be if the two governments came to a political solution on Icesave with Iceland where all parties would share the blame and share the risks involved. After this election a government that tries to settle for anything less is doomed.

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