Saturday, 25 April 2009

Iceland's left landslide will reopen EU argument

I tuned into Daniel Hannan's blog rather hoping that he would be gearing up for live coverage of Iceland's elections today.

Alas, nothing. We will be sure to bring you his thoughts when we have them.

Meanwhile,The Guardian reports that the final polls suggest a close race - but between the Social Democrats of caretaker Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir (polling 35%) and her Left-Green coalition allies (on 28%) in what would be an unprecedented and historic election victory for the left in Iceland.

Regular readers may recall that Hannan is an enormous fan of "the splendidly named Independence party, which has pursued the kind of Thatcherite agenda that is off limits to EU members ... and [who] have no more desire to submit to international than to national regulation. That attitude has made them the happiest, freest and wealthiest people on earth". They have been the dominant force in Icelandic politics for 70 years, but now lag badly in spite of his heartfelt advocacy with that policy having brought the country to deregulated ruin.

EU membership has been the central theme of the campaign. But it is far from all over. Indeed, the argument will now begin in earnest. I expect Hannan will be forging new alliances, with the Eurosceptic argument now being led by the Red-Greens. As The Guardian reports, they are "a party of old-fashioned socialists whose roots are in 1930s Marxism-Leninism, allied with younger environmentalists".

EU Observer has a useful report for those of you who have not been following the campaign.

On Monday (21 April), the Social Democratic prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, said that the country must apply for membership in the bloc immediately after the elections and that if her party won, they would make such a move their top priority.

"It is important to apply for (EU) membership right away, so that people can see what we can get," she told the Morgunbladid paper.

"I predict that in four years we will have adopted the euro," she added.

Her partners in the Left Green Movement meanwhile argue: "Iceland's economic life is better situation outside of the EU than within it. They believe that the bloc is too pro-free-market and its structures are not sufficiently democratic.

However, the party has left the door open to membership in saying that it would support a referendum on whether to start negotiations on entry with the EU and a second referendum on whether to join.

The people themselves strongly back the idea of opening talks with Brussels, but they equally strongly oppose joining.

A March poll showed that 64.2 percent favour beginning negotiations, but just 39.7 in favour of entering the EU.

A range of commentators and analysts meanwhile have argued that remaining outside the union would result in a second, deeper crash, or kreppa in Icelandic.

Meanwhile, Hannan may also be disappointed that his offer to facilitate Iceland's membership of a new Sterling bloc did not set the hustings alight during the campaign, with the Left-Greens expressing more interest in a currency union with Norway.


DavidBrede said...

Perhaps if Iceland has seen the true light then he will follow ha ha.

Jon Worth said...

You're a bit wide of the mark with this Sunder. Read this account of possible coalitions - doesn't look like EU questions are going to be high up the agenda.

Sunder Katwala said...


thanks for the link. That seems very consistent with the EU Observer report to me.

It sounds as though the PM has wanted to stress how committed she is to a referendum, and that she is likely to have support for a referendum to ask the question (with the sceptic Left-Greens backing that, while opposing membership), but that the argument begins with a majority against joining.

So it sounds as if the argument will now open up. Predictions seem very difficult beyond that.