A welcome to specialist observers of the OSCE: You have work to do in this country!

These are among the things that the representatives of OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) should advisably investigate concerning the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Iceland:

  1. The totally unjust, artificial and undemocratic division of the capitol of this country, Reykjavík (one official province, under one mayor, municipal council, etc.) into two constituencies. Until 1999/2000, this had been an undivided constituency for over a century. The division was virtually enforced in the working committee for a revision of our elections law, as witnessed by one of its members, Ms. Kristín Sigurđardóttir, representative of the then Women´s Party (Kvennalistinn), in a radio interview; an amendment of the undue difference between the proportional weight of the votes in rural and urban constituencies (cf. no. 3 below) was denied to those members of the board pressing for that amendment, except if they yielded to the demand of the representatives of our largest political party, the Independent Party, Sjálfstćđisflokkurinn, that Reykjavík be divided in two constituencies. – The awkwardness of this action manifests itself in the fact that not until the last couple of days before election day is it possible for Iceland´s Statistical Bureau (Hagstofan) to decide a demarcation line between the two constituencies Reykjavík North and Reykjavík South (as they have to be equal in size, viz., in their number of voters). – The sheer injustice, and party-political guarding of self-interest, implied by the named division, shows itself in the effect that a whole 7–8% of the voters in this capitol can thus be reduced to no influence at all in the results of the election, whereas, if they were all united in one constituency, some 4–4.5% of the votes would suffice for having an MP elected. This state of affairs is clearly profitable for the largest parties, and disadvantages the smaller ones.
  2. 5% "threshold" was adopted with those same laws, barring any political party from having supplemetary parliamentary seats (uppbótarţingsćti), if the total percentage of votes among the whole electorate in Iceland does not exceed 5%. It is notesworthy that such a party does also have to fulfil the requirement of having at least one regular MP elected locally, by his constituency. Yet, the percentage of threemembers of the Alţing among the whole number of MPs (63) is only 4.9%. – The consequence of this unnecessary requirement is, first, that new parties have very slight chance of crossing that wall (or threshold); second, that this interacts with the effect of opinion polls for making people take it for granted that a vote cast on such a party is, in advance, a "dead" one. – In justification of the 5% rule it has been asserted that extremist political parties have to be barred from entering Parliament. But the actual fact is that there are no such parties in this country, and are unlikely to become a reality, let alone to gather wide support among the population.
  3. The constituencies themselves are so unequal in the weight of influence of their voters that this has already drawn the attention of the OSCE to this fact, which shows itself, e.g., in that the voters inhabiting the North-West constituency have a double weight of influence as compared to the voters in the South-West constituency; and the Reykjavík constituencies are also disproportionally represented in Parliament in an almost similar way.
  4. In the election law it is stipulated that any party going for elections in the whole of the country has to offer no less than 63 men and women running for seats in parliament, plus 63 as their substitutes, and also to provide a list of 63 x 30 to 40 recommending persons who must not recommend any other party´s runners for parliament (if they do, their signatures will be ignored on both or all the relevant parties´ lists). This means, in a country of only about 310,000 people, that somewhere between 1,890 up to 2,520 persons need to recommend each such a list, which is a heavy burden on new parties which are in the process of making themselves known, usually with almost no party funds, and in several ways discriminated against by the state of affairs which reigns in this area of our electoral rights.
  5. The power to call a new election with a very short notice, like the forthcoming one, is a further cause for a concern about democratic rights in this country to be compromised or even jeopardized, cf. no. 4.
  6. The largest parties in this country have been receiving a whole lot of contributions from the State, well over 300 million Icelandic krónur (IKR) in this year, and also from firms (up to a maximum of 300,000 IKR), from individuals, and even from the boards of the communes, which of course should be apolitical in matters such as this one, and yet have not been so: political representatives on commune councils have made the communes support one or a very few among the political parties, in such proportion as their own caprice decides. – Even worse still, the political parties are getting direct state money, from taxpayers pockets, proportionwise according to the parties´ size (in the number of MPs), and we are not talking here about the salaries of the MPs themselves, which is an entirely different matter. – Those state contributions to the old (or "established") parties which are already represented in Parliament do not wait until after the elections, whereas other parties running for Parliament get nothing contributed from the State except if they exceed a certain percentage of votes, and especially if they get a member or more elected to the Alţing, yet only after the elections and in a proportion to the number of their votes and MPs. This is a great cause of disadvantage for new parties who can hardly ever compete with the advertising campaign of the wealthy "established" parties.
  7. A scandal has arisen owing to huge secret contributions being made to two of the largest political parties in the year 2006, Samfylkingin and, especially, Sjálfstćđisflokkurinn, the latter one receiving two grants of 30 million IKR each, from one of our largest banks, Landsbankinn, and from the corporation FL Group (active in avaiation etc.). Allegations have been made that this is under an even darker shadow of suspicion due to those two firms´ interest connections to large energy firms which were being founded and starting new initiatives which depended to a large degree on consultation and contracts being made in 2007 with representatives of that same political party. Two voices were raised in Pariament yesterday claiming that those large contributions were virtually an attempt at bribery.
  8. The different parties or organizations running for Parliament have for a long period of time been disproportionally represented in the State media, the old parties having the upper hand at most levels. A complaint to this effect has already been briefed to the OSCE, I believe.

I, the undersigned, have written extensively on these different points and topics on my two websites, http://jonvalurjensson.blog.is and http://blogg.visir.is/jvj/, and am ready for a further information on this very important issue of interest for those who have at heart equal democratic rights in Iceland.

Jón Valur Jensson, theologian, researcher and writer, Reykjavík.

Grein ţessi birtist upphaflega á ađal-moggabloggi mínu 16. apríl 2009.


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