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Icelandic grannies and anarchists protest shoulder to shoulder demanding new elections in Iceland
January 22, 2009 10:43 AM   Subscribe


 
I know that to most MeFites this will be abstract but my sister, dad and mom as well as numerous friends have taken part in the protests. Luckily none have been hurt dramatically.

The latest news out of Iceland is that the decision has been made all but in name that elections will be held this spring, two years ahead of schedule.
posted by Kattullus at 10:47 AM on January 22, 2009


Einar Örn Benediktsson for president!
posted by elmono at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2009


Yogurt contains live cultures and therefore, microbes. Does this make yogurt-hurling a form of biowarfare?
posted by grounded at 10:51 AM on January 22, 2009


It's not yogurt but skyr.
posted by Kattullus at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2009


Am I the only one that just sort of boggles at the concept of riots in Iceland? I mean, it's Iceland.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 AM on January 22, 2009


I think the Obama connection is more than a little tenuous.
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2009


No, Pope Guilty, you are not alone. It boggles my mind as well.
posted by rand at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2009


For some reason, I have this idea that Eve Online is the only thing keeping Iceland economically afloat.
posted by empath at 11:00 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty - Bankruptcy will do that to civilized people.
posted by gman at 11:01 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since when is organized dissent uncivil?
posted by lunit at 11:02 AM on January 22, 2009


You know what's weird, just after reading the text of this FPP, I got an email with the subject line "Yes You Can Go on Vacation This Year" from Iceland Air.
posted by lampoil at 11:02 AM on January 22, 2009


What can be done to improve the financial situation? To my understanding, the Icelandic banks had the same problem as the US and other European banks, they were just over-leveraged to an even greater extent. The government officials probably deserve to lose their positions after failing to implement banking standards, but what kinds of policies do the protesters want to see implemented?
posted by demiurge at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2009


Thanks for this informative post, Kattullus.
posted by homunculus at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


They lit a large bonfire and made several attempts at torching the city’s Christmas tree, which is a gift from Norway. Around midnight, after repeated botched attempts, the protesters simply tore down the tree and tossed it into the bonfire...

Amateurs.
posted by gman at 11:08 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Iceland doesn't seem like a very appealing vacation spot in the middle of winter.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2009


demiurge: what kinds of policies do the protesters want to see implemented?

Not a single person has been called to account for their part in the economic mismanagement. The government has been practically paralyzed all winter. Protesters want people to take responsibility and new elections. Before policies are decided upon there must be discussion among those who implement them but that hasn't happen. So first things first: new elections and a call to account for those who were in charge when everything went belly up.
posted by Kattullus at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2009


yesterday hundreds of Bulgarians rallied to demand that the Socialist-led Government should take action or step down

As an accidental eye witness to this yesterday, this is blatant padding in the article attempting to paint a Europe-wide picture where none exists.

Me and my buddy on our way back from a meeting saw maybe 200, tops (I guess that technically qualifies as "hundreds"), peacefully milling about. The young crowd seemed mainly interested in the free concert, and the police looked completely non-confrontational, smoking and wandering through the crowd. They didn't come close to filling the modest square.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


i think what i love about that Flickr set is that the protesters don't *break* the windows, they just bang on them. and throw snowballs. how this merits tear gas i fail to understand.
posted by RedEmma at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2009


In a related story, Ringling Bros. Clown College students, envious of Bush flying to Texas, have been hurling custard pies at the Administration Tent.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2009


I thought the Cold War was over.
posted by Rumple at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2009


empath- Eve Online has more participants than Iceland has citizens!
posted by seagull.apollo at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2009


Well of course their economy is in the crapper it's based on pretending to be something you're not on the internet! I blame certain Mefites for the whole mess.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:21 AM on January 22, 2009


empath: I think the Obama connection is more than a little tenuous.

Perhaps... but I know that family and friends I talked to on Tuesday and yesterday expressed similar sentiments, that the contrast with Obama made them angry at the Independence Party, the larger of the two ruling parties, which has been in power for 17 years and doesn't want to relinquish any of that power. At the same time as the protests were starting the Independence Party minister for health was proposing to privatize parts of the Icelandic healthcare system. The disconnect was too much for my mom and dad who rushed down to the square in front of the parliament building to join my sister and the thousands of other protesters (estimates vary about the size of the crowd but it was at least 2000).
posted by Kattullus at 11:24 AM on January 22, 2009


At the same time as the protests were starting the Independence Party minister for health was proposing to privatize parts of the Icelandic healthcare system.

Oops! I got that wrong. It wasn't that bill but another bill about allowing supermarkets to sell beer (which is prohibited in Iceland). It was the disconnect between the piddlingness of the discussion and the protests outside that sent my parents to the protests.
posted by Kattullus at 11:29 AM on January 22, 2009


Kudos to the Christian Science Monitor for having actual links in an article, some of them to unaffiliated sites. More papers should do this online.
posted by aerotive at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2009


(estimates vary about the size of the crowd but it was at least 2000).

That doesn't sound like much to an American ear but if a comparably-sized protest occurred in the USA, the crowd would be almost 2,000,000 strong.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:45 AM on January 22, 2009


I was less boggled at rioting Icelanders than that someone in a European country with awesome alternative energy would be jealous of OUR President.
posted by DU at 11:51 AM on January 22, 2009


I currently live only a 100m away from Alþingi and the protests. A good friend of mine was hurt last night trying to protect the police from the kids who were throwing rocks and trying to get a response.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 12:30 PM on January 22, 2009


Boinngggg!
posted by telstar at 12:33 PM on January 22, 2009


Meatbomb As an accidental eye witness to this yesterday, this is blatant padding in the article attempting to paint a Europe-wide picture where none exists.

I definitely agree with you, Meatbomb. There's currently a rather nasty undercurrent in the British press (in particular in its Eurosceptic exponents like the "Times") to try to compensate by their current economic misery by portraying the rest of Europe as being in even worse shape. Hence plenty of articles on Iceland, as well as quite a few mentions of Ireland and the real estate bust in Spain. Painting a picture of "a Continent in upheaval" goes in the same direction, never mind that the general mood is rather one of "silliness and greed got us into this mess, we're going to have to work hard to get out of the hole".
posted by Skeptic at 1:01 PM on January 22, 2009


If Iceland would start exporting skyr to the United States I would *personally* turn their economy around with my dairy consumption.
posted by stet at 1:32 PM on January 22, 2009


Has anyone thrown any skyr at whoever is in charge of immigration? If they could do that, that'd be awesome. I know I certainly wanted to, but I was close enough to getting kicked out as it was.

If Iceland would start exporting skyr to the United States I would *personally* turn their economy around with my dairy consumption.

You can buy it at Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2009


Also worth mentioning: From what I understand about Icelandic politics, throwing skyr is a "traditional" form of protest that was established in the '60's or '70's. An American analogue would be throwing paint on people wearing fur.

Skyr, for those unfamiliar, is much thicker and thus stickier than yogurt. It would certainly not be awesome to have it flung at you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:40 PM on January 22, 2009


For some reason, I have this idea that Eve Online is the only thing keeping Iceland economically afloat.

Easy to believe, especially when you've had a run of podding people like a motherfucker.
posted by rodgerd at 2:57 PM on January 22, 2009


There's currently a rather nasty undercurrent in the British press (in particular in its Eurosceptic exponents like the "Times") to try to compensate by their current economic misery by portraying the rest of Europe as being in even worse shape.

That's certainly part of it, but I think there are reasons beyond schadenfreude for Brits to be fascinated by a finance-dominated Northern European economy suffering a sudden, totally devastating collapse.
posted by stammer at 4:16 PM on January 22, 2009


They lit a large bonfire and made several attempts at torching the city’s Christmas tree, which is a gift from Norway. Around midnight, after repeated botched attempts, the protesters simply tore down the tree and tossed it into the bonfire...

Amateurs.


They didn't even ask for the know-how.
posted by ersatz at 4:37 PM on January 22, 2009


but I think there are reasons beyond schadenfreude for Brits to be fascinated by a finance-dominated Northern European economy suffering a sudden, totally devastating collapse.

Well, the nationalistic fuckhead brigade are yuking it up because Iceland kicked their arse in a territorial dispute 30 or so years ago, and they seem to feel this is some sort of revenge.
posted by rodgerd at 4:38 PM on January 22, 2009


Thanks for this, Kattullus.
posted by weebil at 6:09 PM on January 22, 2009


An American analogue would be throwing paint on people wearing fur.

Or, say, shoes at a President?

This is indeed abstract to me--I've never been to Iceland--but I've been keeping tabs on events there since its banks got nationalized. I'm not sure why, except that it's a symbol of what the other Western countries are going through, but more poignant because unlike the larger ones, Iceland seems small enough to be a real community torn apart by the bad decisions of a few members. I'm sure lots of ordinary people there know and interact with the Prime Minister. At least, that's my impression. I once joked with an Icelander acquaintance, "Do you know Bjork?" He said he didn't really know her, but he'd been to a party she threw once, and she kissed him on the cheek as a greeting when he arrived. So now that the government has taken on all the stupid debt that the banks there incurred, I feel sad because I suspect that things are getting really ugly because the problems are personal (which the protests maybe confirm). I'm worried that the same thing will happen in England, and maybe even here in the U.S., and if things can turn as bad as they have in Iceland, they would certainly be worse here. So, thanks for posting this, Kattullus. I know that you and Marisa etc. etc. are Icelanders, and I'm glad to see updates from your home country here.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:06 PM on January 22, 2009


> It's not yogurt but skyr.

What a shame. That stuff is fucking delicious, and I've been looking (in vain) for a place in Toronto that sells it ever since I returned from a vacation in Iceland four years ago.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:31 PM on January 22, 2009


I think the Obama connection is more than a little tenuous.

Not especially. The day after he was elected, one of Iceland's more popular bloggers wrote an article entitled "Where's the Icelandic Obama?" There's a general feeling of contrasts when you see Captain Awesome being sworn in, while in your country, heads of state are literally hiding from people and not offering any statements beyond, "The government will stand together" and "Things will eventually get better".

Elections this spring (scheduled for 2011) seem to be getting closer and closer to a reality. The Reykjavik branch of the Social Democrats - one of the two ruling parties - held a meeting the other night, where they voted overwhelmingly to urge the chairman of the party to break the ruling coalition partnership with the Conservatives and call for new elections. Two-thirds of the country polled support the protestors. Even some Conservatives are starting to pay lip service to the idea of early elections. In the past, when a politician made the Icelandic public angry, they've been able to wait out the storm until people either got tired of protesting or moved on to something else. But in this case, people just get angrier with each day this coalition stays in power. The PM needs to ask himself what he wants his legacy to be, and who thinks he works for.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:12 PM on January 22, 2009


Ah, and it looks like elections have been called for May 9! Great news!
posted by weebil at 6:43 AM on January 23, 2009


Icelandic Ruling Coaltion ends- Prime Minister resigns, blames social democrats.

The ruling coalition was made up of the right-wing Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn), led by Prime Minister Geir Haarde, and the center-left Social Democrats (Samfylkingin), led by Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrun Gísladóttir, both of which have been diagnosed with cancer this winter. The Social Democrats demanded that the Independence Party relinquish the post of Prime Minister and acquiesce to firing the director of the Icelandic Central Bank, Davíð Oddsson, formerly the Prime Minister and leader of the Independence Party.

As an interesting aside, the person that Samfylkingin wanted as Prime Minister instead of Geir Haarde is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the Social Affairs Minister, who happens to be a lesbian (and more importantly Iceland’s most popular politician). It is likely that Samfylkingin forms a government and if so nearly certain that Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becomes Prime Minister which would make her, as far as I know, the world’s first openly gay head of government.
posted by Kattullus at 6:43 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Iceland, the Global Financial Crisis Claims its First Government. A good overview from Time Magazine of the last week of events in Iceland by a reporter, Jonas Moody, who's well versed in Icelandic matters (he's written for Atlantica, Icelandair's in-flight magazine for years and wrote the "Envious of Obama..." article I linked to in the post). Here's an excerpt:
The prime minister is now due to meet with the president to formalize the dissolution of the current government. It remains unclear whether parliament will be dissolved, or if elections will be held immediately. Another possibility is a national government with all parties participating until the May election. If the Social Democrats take control, even temporarily, they are likely to be led by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who would become Iceland's first female prime minister and the first openly gay prime minister in Europe.

Protestors vow that their campaign is not over. "Of course I'm happy with today's announcements," Hörður Torfason, a spokesman for the protestors, told TIME. "But the day isn't over yet."
There has been a protest today but it was very sparsely attended, by a few dozen at best, according to newsreports.
posted by Kattullus at 1:35 PM on January 26, 2009


Icelandic PM would be world's second openly gay PM [the headline is actually slightly misleading since the first, former Norwegian Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss, was only acting Prime Minister for a brief period during his time as Finance Minister] Excerpt:
I guess I still have the attitude of most Icelanders when it comes to matters of sexual issues, because I failed to pick up on the newsworthiness of Sigurdardottir's sexual orientation. "Oh, vow," said an American friend of mine, "that's really something! First openly gay world leader!"

Huh? Why, who cares? Even after living in America all these years, where hounding politicians into surrealistic hell about their private lives is the norm, it didn't really ring bells for me. "I don't see what her sexual orientation has to do with anything," my mother told me yesterday. "It's no one's business but her own."

My usually taciturn father agreed strongly. "She is the most trusted and respected politician in the country," he said, "and she is simply the best person available for the job. Ja, that is just pervert thinking," he replied when I told him that her sexual orientation would probably be more newsworthy in America than anything else surrounding her appointment.
While it is true that few Icelanders care about Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir's sexual orientation, her popularity is based partly on having been a member of parliament for very long (since 1978) without having lost any integrity and survived political setbacks that would have crippled most other politicians plus having an unparalleled expertise in all matters related to the Icelandic government's social safety net. Even though her sexual orientation is well known, most people don't think of her as a lesbian politician but a politician who is a lesbian. That said, Íris Erlingsdóttir, the author of the article I linked to, underestimates how much this means to a lot of Icelandic gays and lesbians, as well as a lot of others. I know that it's important to me and a lot of my friends and family. Even though Iceland is very progressive in matters of sexuality and gender, there are still quite a few homophobes, having a gay Prime Minister is a good sign that they are marginal and fading away as a social force.

Oh, and even though it's not official yet, it's 99% certain now, unless something completely weird happens.
posted by Kattullus at 12:24 PM on January 27, 2009


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