New Mayor Sympathises With Protesters

Reykjavík Mayor Einar Þorsteinsson has defended the right of Palestinian protesters to assemble on Austurvöllur square outside Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament, adding that the protest has been peaceful and that the protesters’ cause is sympathetic to all.

In a Facebook post Friday night, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson called for tighter regulations for asylum seekers and increased border control. He posted a picture of tents pitched by Palestinian protesters outside Alþingi, saying that it was “incomprehensible” that this was allowed by Reykjavík authorities.

No formal complaint from Alþingi

In an interview with RÚV Saturday, Einar responded to Bjarni’s comment, saying that the city does not give permission for protests, as the right to protest is secured by the Icelandic constitution. He added, however, that in his opinion it wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing if one group took over Austurvöllur square for weeks or months and stayed overnight in tents.

Einar, a city counsellor for the Progressive Party who took over as mayor on Tuesday, added that he had sympathy for the Palestinian families in question. “These are people who have lost family members and people who are waiting desperately for news of their loved ones and I think we all sympathise with this cause,” he said. “But it should be mentioned that the protests have been peaceful, which may be the reason that Alþingi hasn’t formally complained and the police has spoken positively about these protests.”

Limited to one tent

Einar went on to say that communications with the protesters had been good and that their license for camping had now been limited to only one tent, with no permission to stay there overnight. He said that other groups had since showed interest in camping, a regrettable development in his opinion, and that the city would revise its process in granting these licenses to make sure that Austurvöllur remains a forum for the public to protest and campaign for their causes.

The Palestinian protesters have been camped outside of Alþingi since December 27. The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out family reunifications for residents of Gaza whom they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

New Mayor Takes Office in Reykjavík

Einar Þorsteinsson, city counsellor for the Progressive Party, was voted in as Mayor of Reykjavík at a meeting of City Council today.

Einar is serving his first term in the council after leading his party to its best result in Reykjavík to this day in the 2022 municipal election. He formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party and the Pirate Party. He’s served as chair of the City Executive Council since the election. Outgoing mayor, Dagur B. Eggertsson of the Social Democratic Alliance, will take over as chair until the end of the term, when he’s announced he will leave city politics behind.

From TV news to city politics

Einar is 45 years old and had a notable career as a TV news anchor and host of RÚV talk show Kastljós before entering politics in 2022. The Progressive Party had no representation in City Council in the preceding term, but Einar’s campaign received just under 19% of the total vote and four seats. As a result, the party was in a strong position to decide on how to form a majority, opting to join up with three of the four parties that formed the previous majority coalition. An agreement was made that Dagur would step down as mayor 18 months into the term to make way for Einar.

Ten year run as mayor

Dagur is the longest-tenured city councillor in Reykjavík and has been mayor since 2014. He entered City Council in 2002 as an independent member for Reykjavíkurlistinn, the centre-left alliance that ended the conservative Independence Party’s dominance in city politics. He later joined the Social Democratic Alliance and became vice-chairman of the party during Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir’s term as prime minister from 2009 to 2013. He has not ruled out a further career in politics and has been rumoured as a potential Alþingi candidate in the upcoming 2025 general election.

New Daycare Providers to Receive ISK 1 Million in Start-Up Funding

Reykjavík City Hall ráðhús

Reykjavík’s City Council recently passed a proposal stipulating that new daycare providers receive a startup grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). The Chairman of the Council believes that the proposal will result in significant cost savings for parents, Vísir reports.

Same fee for daycare and kindergartens

On Thursday, June 15, the City Council of Reykjavík approved a proposal stipulating that daycare centres that commence operations in Reykjavík will receive a start-up grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). ISK 250,000 ($1,800 / €1,700) will be paid upon the signing of a service contract, and ISK 750,000 ($5,500 / €5,000) a year later. In addition, the City of Reykjavík will organise and pay for an accident prevention course every two years for all daycare providers, Vísir reports.

Einar Þorsteinsson, the Chair of Reykjavík City Council and future mayor, highlighted a significant change in the recently agreed proposal; under the new arrangement, parents will pay the same fee to the daycare centre as they would for kindergarten once their child reaches 18 months of age. As noted by Vísir, the ruling coalition had previously promised that children as young as twelve months could enrol in kindergarten.

“The city’s rules stipulate that children should be admitted by the age of eighteen months,” Einar told Vísir. “Ensuring equal treatment for parents, regardless of whether they opt for daycare providers or the preschool system, is important. The new proposal aims to achieve this by implementing a uniform fee structure. It also aims to support families who have been on the kindergarten waiting list for an extended period by covering their expenses.”

Einar maintains that parents’ payments are being reduced by tens of thousands of króna per month. “Alongside this proposal, we’re also advertising for housing among private parties. We are specifically seeking ground floors, mobile units within open-air playgrounds (i.e. gæsluvellir), and unused retail spaces that could potentially serve as suitable locations for daycare facilities. These spaces may not be suitable for kindergartens, but they meet the requirements for daycare services.”

The new proposals are not unfair to those who already work as daycare providers, according to Einar: “These proposals are aimed at increasing the number of daycare providers, improving their working environment and conditions. Reykjavík’s School and Recreation department had a good meeting with both of the two daycare parents’ associations, and the proposals take into account their views.

City Council Introduces Proposals to Address Preschool Crisis

In the wake of parent-led protests, Reykjavík’s City Council has introduced proposals to expedite the admission of preschoolers. As reported last week, hundreds of children are currently waitlisted for preschools around Reykjavík.

A press conference at City Hall

Last Friday, parents of waitlisted children gathered at Reykjavík City Hall to protest; nearly 700 hundred children aged 12 months and older are waiting to be admitted to preschools around Reykjavík.

In response to the growing crisis, members of the council held a townhall meeting yesterday morning, introducing six proposals to expedite the admissions of waitlisted preschoolers. The proposals, approved of by City Council prior to the meeting, are as follows, RÚV reports:

  • Expediting the opening of Ævintýraborg

The Ævintýraborg preschool on Nauthólsvegur is to be opened ahead of schedule, or in early September. While the school’s playground and outdoor area are being finalised – expected to be complete in early October – Ævintýraborg will emphasise “diverse outdoor activities” in Öskjuhlíð, Nauthólsvík and near-lying areas. Once completed, Ævintýraborg will admit 100 children.

  • Utilising city-owned housing

Available housing owned by the city is to be utilised to meet preschool shortages this fall. Work has already begun to evaluate whether Korpuskóli school can serve as temporary facilities for preschoolers. Two additional departments are to be opened at the Bakki preschool, in the Staðarhverfi neighbourhood, in the hopes of accepting up to 160-200 additional preschoolers. Furthermore, community centres, along with other housing owned by the city and its collaborators, is to be utilised for preschoolers. This proposal is made on the condition of the parents’ interest in agreeing to these proposals and on the condition that these facilities can be staffed.

  • A new preschool in Fossvogur

Reykjavík will take advantage of an option-to-buy clause in order to purchase land in the Fossvogsdalur valley, adjacent to the city’s Cultivation Centre (Ræktunarstöð Reykjavíkur). The council will request the reclassification of the lot, and if said request is granted, an additional Ævintýraborg, capable of accommodating 100 preschoolers, will be opened next year.

  • Expansion of Steinahlíð

The Steinahlíð preschool is one of the city’s oldest preschools, currently accommodating 55 children. The council will enter into talks with Barnavinafélagið Sumargjöf, the school’s proprietor and landowner, with the aim of expanding the school, whether temporarily or for the foreseeable future. The will of the two parties to consider this expansion was addressed in an agreement regarding possible reclassification changes with regard to the Borgarlína transit system, which was approved June 18th.

  • Increased subsidies to daycare

Subsidies to daycare providers will be increased in order to strengthen their operational conditions, lower the cost of parents, and increase the number of daycare providers. Base subsidies will also be increased and further avenues to improvements, i.e. instructional or housing subsidies, will be explored.

  • Application protocols

Preschool admission protocols will be reviewed with a view to improve the dissemination of information to parents, simplify the application process, and work toward greater transparency. It is also necessary to review the possibility of integrating the application process between Reykjavík preschools and independently-operated preschools.

“Their disappointment has not escaped our notice”

Einar Þorsteinsson, City Council Chairman, and acting Mayor in the absence of Dagur B. Eggertsson, conducted the town-hall meeting, which was well attended by parents of waitlisted children.

According to Einar, the parents’ disappointment had “not escaped the council’s notice.” “I’m happy that there was a consensus among council members regarding the proposals … everyone’s doing their best to ensure adequate accommodation.”

Parents are not “systems enthusiasts”

Kristín Tómasdóttir, who has organised the protests at City Hall, took to the podium after the proposals had been introduced. Kristín stated that while she welcomed the meeting, and the fact that city council had finally introduced their proposals, she expressed the parents’ dismay that they’d been forced to expend energy  ensuring that city council do its job.

“You’re here to introduce proposals that you never intended to introduce,” she said, suggesting that if it weren’t for the protests, the proposals would never have seen the light of day.

“We were simply supposed to be understanding of the fact that you didn’t intend to keep your promises,” Kristín remarked.

Einar Takes Over as Reykjavík Mayor in 2024

City of Reykjavík council majority June 6 2022

The Social-Democratic Alliance, Progressive Party, Pirate Party, and Reform Party of the City of Reykjavík held a press conference yesterday where they announced that negotiations to form a majority coalition on the city council had been successful. Incumbent Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson will remain in the position until the end of next year, with Progressive Party Councillor Einar Þorsteinnson taking over as mayor at the beginning of 2024.

Together, the four parties hold a majority of 13 seats out of the total 23. The Social-Democratic Alliance has five of the seats, followed by the Progressive Party with four, the Pirate Party with three, and the Reform Party with one seat. The new City Council’s first official meeting will be at 2:00 PM today.

Einar opened yesterday’s press conference by expressing satisfaction with the coalition agreement, stating that it fully meets the Progressive Party’s demands for changes in the coming term. Pirate Party councillor Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir stated that her party is pleased with the emphasis the agreement places on climate issues, democracy, transparency, and a just society, all priorities of the Pirate Party. Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir of the Reform Party expressed satisfaction that the majority plans to focus on labour and innovation in the coming term.

Read More: Municipal Election Results Across Iceland

Incumbent mayor and Social-Democratic Alliance councillor Dagur B. Eggertsson stated he was pleased with the new majority and that the city will continue to develop toward being more environmentally sustainable.

The coalition agreement includes housing construction projects on plots in Úlfarsárdalur, Kjalarnes, Hlíðarendi, Gufunes, and Ártúnshöfði, as well as a competition for the development of Keldnaland and Keldnaholt.

The new term will bring higher subsidies for children’s activities as well as free swimming pool access and public bus trips for primary school children. The majority also promised to bring back the night bus service as well as run a pilot project to have one pool in the city open until midnight.

Formal Negotiations for Reykjavík City Council Begin

Einar Þorsteinsson

The Progressive Party has begun formal negotiations with the Social-Democratic Alliance, the Pirate Party, and the Reform Party on forming a governing majority on the Reykjavík City Council, RÚV reports. Under the leadership of first-time councillor Einar Þorsteinsson, the Progressive Party went from zero seats on the council to four following the May 14 municipal elections. Both Einar and incumbent mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson have stated they are not insistent on becoming mayor in the upcoming term: negotiations will focus on the issues before responsibilities are divided up.

Majority lost in election

Reykjavík’s four-party governing coalition of last term – consisting of the Social-Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Left-Green Movement – lost two of its 12 seats in the election, and therefore its majority on the 23-seat Reykjavík City Council. The Social-Democratic Alliance and Reform Party both lost seats, the Left-Green Party held its single seat, while the Pirate Party increased its number of seats from two to three. As elsewhere in the country, the Progressive Party saw great success in Reykjavík, going from zero seats on the City Council to four. The Independence Party, while it received the largest proportion of the vote (nearly 25%), lost one seat, going from seven to six councillors.

Rule out coalition with Independence Party

As is normally the case for municipal elections in Reykjavík, no party won enough seats to form a majority on its own. While many different party coalitions are technically possible, several have been ruled out by party councillors, who are not willing to work with just anyone. The Left-Green Movement’s only councillor Lif Magneudóttir has stated the party will not participate in majority negotiations at all. The Pirate Party has ruled out a coalition with the Independence Party on political grounds, while the Social-Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Pirate Party have decided to band together in the negotiation process, ruling out a coalition that would include the Independence Party.

Socialist Party councillor Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir criticised the three-party grouping for negotiations, stating that the additional seats won by the Socialist Party and Pirate Party indicated voters were calling for a left-leaning city council, not a right-leaning one. The Socialist Party has refused to be in a majority government with the Reform Party, which it labels as a right-wing party.

“We see that the Reform Party speaks in favour of privatisation, outsourcing, and these market solutions, as was clearly stated in their election campaign. We Socialists speak for socialists and social solutions and very much in like with the emphases that should be expressed by the Social Democrats.”

List of Candidates in Reykjavík Elections Becoming Clearer

iceland refugees

The list of candidates running for municipal elections in Reykjavík this spring is gradually becoming clearer. Women are set to form the majority of party leaders.

Women likely to form a majority

With two and a half months until municipal elections – and just over a month until the nomination deadline – it looks as if a minimum of nine candidates will be vying for the mayoral seat in Reykjavík, RÚV reports. The Social Democratic Alliance and the Pirate Party have already introduced their list of candidates, with Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson leading the former party and councillor Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir chairing the latter.

Two primary elections will be held in Reykjavík next week when the Left-Green Movement and the Reform Party will decide on their list of candidates. Three women will be vying for first place for the Left-Greens: meteorologist Elín Björk Jónasdóttir, councilwoman Líf Magneudóttir, and substitute city councillor Elín Oddný Sigurðardóttir. Þórdís Jóna Sigurðardóttir and Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir will hope to lead the Reform Party

Former anchorman to lead the Progressives?

The Progressive Party will be holding a constituency congress in Reykjavík on March 10 to introduce its list of candidates. It is widely believed that former RÚV anchor and journalist Einar Þorsteinsson will be leading the party. Handballer Björgvin Páll Gústavsson has announced that he will not be seeking first place.

Primary elections for the Independence Party in Reykjavík will be held on March 18 and 19. A new leader will be elected given that Eyþór Laxdal Arnalds has decided to step aside. Substitute councilwoman Ragnhildur Alda María Vilhjálmsdóttir will be running against councilwoman Hildur Björnsdóttir for chair.

The Centre Party will hold primary elections on March 26, where members will vote on its top three candidates. Councilwoman Vigdís Hauksdóttir will once again be running for chair.

The People’s Party has not announced when it will reveal its list of candidates. It will not hold primary elections, and councilwoman Kolbrún Baldursdóttir intends to hold onto first place. The same holds for the Socialist Party, where councilwoman Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir will lead the party.

This means that women will be leading seven out of the nine parties running in the municipal elections.

(Municipal elections will be held across the country on May 14, 2022. Both citizens of Iceland, as well as residents of Iceland who have lived in the country for five years or longer, can vote in municipal elections.)