East Iceland Votes in New “Home Councils” Next Week

East Iceland residents go to the polls next week to vote in the first government of a newly-merged municipality. Residents of Borgarfjarðarhreppur, Fljótsdalshérað, Seyðisfjörður, and Djúpavogshreppur voted last October to merge their municipalities under a single government. Each of the four localities will also elect a so-called “home council,” representing a brand-new form of local government in Iceland.

The new municipality, which is yet to be named, will be the largest in Iceland, at over 11,000 square kilometres (4,250 square miles) and will contain around 5,000 residents. Five parties are running for election to the new government: Austurlistinn, the Progressive Party, the Centre Party, the Independence Party, and the Left-Green Movement. In addition to the municipal council, each of the four localities will also have a three-person home council, which will serve as a link between the municipal government and the locality’s residents. The concept is built on experimental provisions on governance in 2011 legislation concerning local government. This will be the first time the provision is applied.

Read More: Municipal Mergers in Iceland

When they show up to the polls, East Iceland residents will not only be voting on council members but also nominating residents to their own home council. Everyone who holds the right to vote is eligible to sit on a home council, and to nominate someone, voters simply write down their name and address on the ballot. This means that interested parties do not necessarily need to campaign publicly to win a seat on their home council. Those who would like to do so, however, are able to register online.

Two out of three members of each home council will be drawn from the locality, while the third member will be a sitting municipal councillor. Home councils will hold a significant amount of authority within each locality. They will oversee detailed land-use plans, the granting of licenses, nature conservation, and cultural events in their area.

In Focus: Municipal Mergers

It’s Monday morning. Katrín wakes up and gets her daughter ready for school. After dropping her off, she heads to the local library, where she does freelance work. On her way there, she notices the progress in the apartment housing being built across the street: she’s renting now but has put a down payment on an apartment there. During her lunch break, Katrín drives out of town for a walk at her favourite hiking spot. Since it was designated as a protected area several years ago, it’s been getting more popular. She works until 5.00pm. Her daughter participates in an after-school program until then. After picking her up, they head to the local pool for a bit of fun before dinner. One organisation has had a hand in every aspect of Katrín’s day, as well as her daughter’s: her local council.

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