Poorest Election Turnout in Iceland’s History Skip to content

Poorest Election Turnout in Iceland’s History

Only one third of voters, 36 percent, participated in the Constitutional Assembly election in Iceland on Saturday, which is the lowest turnout for any nation-wide election held in Iceland in the past 100 years and the lowest since Iceland became an independent republic in 1944.

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From the Icelandic parliament. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.

The turnout for the Icesave referendum in March was 62 percent; in parliamentary elections the turnout is usually well over 80 percent.

The highest turnout was in the Reykjavík South constituency where 41.2 people cast their votes and the lowest in the South Iceland constituency where 29.2 of people voted, Fréttabladid reports.

According to political scientist Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, the poor turnout weakens the Constitutional Assembly’s authority, although it might also have a positive impact on the assembly’s work.

With a weaker authority the members of the Constitutional Assembly have to converse more with parliamentarians and the entire nation to persuade others that their ideas for a new constitution are sensible, Kristinsson reasoned.

“As long as the Constitutional Assembly doesn’t go overboard in its proposals, I believe it will generally encounter a very positive attitude at Althingi,” he added. The constitutional draft must be passed by Althingi, the Icelandic parliament.

Kristinsson said a poor turnout, which was caused by a number of factors, was not surprising. “It is not a successful election system,” he said. Voters had to prepare more thoroughly than during regular parliamentary elections.

Campaigns were rarely noticed, he added, and those that were visible neither evolved around policies nor persons. There were no groups among the 522 candidates who debated on basic issues, which could have increased interest in the election.

Other factors include how controversial the election was and many people simply didn’t see the need for a Constitutional Assembly at this time and therefore didn’t vote, Kristinsson pointed out.

Furthermore, this is the third time voters have been sent to the polls this year, with the Icesave referendum and municipal elections having been held last spring. The nation is simply suffering from election fatigue, he reasoned.

Chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson told Morgunbladid that the turnout must be a shock to Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, who has publicly supported the Constitutional Assembly for a long time, as it is obvious that she is not in sync with the nation regarding interest for the assembly.

Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, parliamentary group chair of the Social Democrats, Sigurdardóttir’s party, said that although the turnout was disappointing, “those who did not participate gave those who did their authority.”

The election results are expected this afternoon.

Click here to read more about the election.

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