Iceland’s 2018 municipal elections will be held on May 26. This article provides a brief overview of the election process, the parties running in Reykjavík, and the main issues being prioritized.
The Basics: Where, When, and How?
Iceland only has two levels of legislative government: municipal and federal. Municipal elections are held simultaneously in all 72 municipalities across Iceland every four years. As in Iceland’s parliamentary elections, candidates are elected using party list proportional representation. This system means parties rarely win a majority of seats and usually must work together to form a coalition government.
Who can vote?
Icelandic nationals have the right to vote in municipal elections. Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish nationals who have legally resided in Iceland for more than three consecutive years have the right to vote in municipal elections. Other foreign nationals who have resided in Iceland for five consecutive years have the right to vote in municipal elections as well.
Iceland’s capital city Reykjavík is the most populous municipality, with 126 041 residents as of January 1, 2018. Around 36% of the country’s population reside within its borders. Reykjavík’s city council will increase its number of seats from 15 to 23 after this election to reflect its booming population.
A plentiful 17 parties are running in Reykjavík this spring. Three of the biggest issues in the municipality are public transportation, housing, and childcare.
Parties generally agree that Reykjavík needs to invest in transportation infrastructure to serve its growing population. A planned bus rapid transit line, known as Borgarlínan (En. The City Line) receives varying support from the parties, some of which believe more and better roads should be prioritized.
Housing is another major election issue in Reykjavík, whose residents face both a housing shortage and inaccessible prices. Parties disagree on whether the best solution is to increase density within the city or build new neighbourhoods on its outskirts.
Reykjavík currently guarantees children a preschool spot from the age of 2 years. Since parents receive only nine months of parental leave between them, providing childcare until they can send their kids to prechool is often both difficult and costly. The issue is high on the list of many parties, some of which promise to provide guaranteed preschool spots from when parental leave ends.
Reykjavík Party Breakdown
Election polls show The Independence Party and the Social-Democratic Alliance polling highest in Reykjavík, with many polls showing The Independence Party poised to win the most seats. The Pirate Party, Reform Party, Centre Party, and Left-Green are expected to win seats, while the Progressive Party and a few others have a reasonable chance.
Eight parties are brand new or running for the first time in the municipality, such as the Icelandic National Front, the People’s Party, Höfuðborgarlistinn (En. Capital City List), the Socialist Party, Kvennahreyfingin (En. Women’s Movement), O-listi Borgarinnar okkar (En. Our City’s O List), Karlalistinn (En. The Men’s List), and Frelsisflokkurinn (En. The Freedom Party). The People’s Front of Iceland has run in most of Reykjavík’s elections since the 2008 banking collapse and does so again this year.
Other municipalities around the country face similar issues to Reykjavík, where growing populations have put pressure on housing in small communities, and real estate prices are now rising faster than in the capital area. As in the capital, bridging the gap between parental leave and preschool is a big concern. Municipal councils in smaller communities also face the challenge of balancing job creation in tourism and heavy industry with protecting the environment.