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Sat Apr 27, 2013, 07:22 AM

Iceland's election: voters fear the EU more than a return to the bad old days

So much for the people's revolt. Icelanders are primed to return to power the very parties that led them to economic meltdown

Here in Iceland, we are no strangers to catastrophe. All our banks collapse, the economy melts down, there is a political crisis, a currency crisis, and to top it all off, a volcano erupts and grounds planes all over the world just a regular day at the office for us. Now, this weekend, we're being hurled towards another catastrophe, as the political parties that plunged us into the worst economic disaster in the nation's history are set to be voted into office again.

Yes, you read that right.

I am talking about the Independence and Progressive parties, which governed Iceland from 1995 to 2007. These parties privatised the banks in the early 2000s, which wreaked such havoc on the nation. That was a brazen act so riddled with corruption that it boggles the mind that they got away with it. The Progressive party was also instrumental in pushing through the construction of a large-scale power plant to feed an aluminium smelter owned by Alcoa. This despite widespread protests and numerous studies that such an undertaking could have catastrophic effects, both environmental and economic. That single project was largely to blame for creating the economic conditions that culminated in the meltdown.

We thought we tossed these parties where they belonged four years ago, ousting them from power after the most violent civil protests in decades. The nation elected its first leftwing government, and a coalition between the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green movement was formed. Iceland had its first female prime minister, who was also openly gay.

Other articles:

Iceland election: Ruling bloc facing defeat

Voters in Iceland are going to the polls in elections expected to oust the governing centre-left coalition.

Analysts predict that two centre-right parties will be able to form a new cabinet, pledging to soften unpopular austerity policies.

This would mark a dramatic comeback for the centre-right, which was widely blamed for Iceland's near-economic collapse in 2008.

Their victory could also halt the island nation's EU membership talks.


Icelanders were voting Saturday in a parliamentary election that could return to power the center-right parties that led the country into economic collapse five years ago and stall plans to join the European Union.

Polls show the Progressive and Independence parties, who oppose EU membership, leading the Social Democrat-Left-Green coalition that has governed Iceland during four years of crisis and uneven recovery.

"The government that many people thought was cleaning up the mess is getting severely punished for the last four years," said political analyst Egill Helgason. "I don't know whether they deserve it. In many ways I think not. But this is politics cruel."
Both the Progressive and Independence parties are appealing to voters with promises to ease austerity. Progressive Party chief Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson is promising to write off some mortgage debt, taking money from foreign creditors.


Iceland government heads for defeat as centre right revives

Icelanders fed up with austerity are set to oust the ruling Social Democrats in elections on Saturday after being wooed with promises of tax cuts and debt relief from the centre right that presided over the nation's financial meltdown five years ago.

With promises of a quick recovery fading, voters are angered by mounting mortgage debt, rapid inflation and crippling capital controls that keep investment at a record low.

"To me, this election is about whether my daughter will be able to keep her house or not," said Thury Steinthorsdottir, 55, who runs a small bed and breakfast in Laugarvatn, 30 km (20 miles) east of Reykjavik.

"The crash wiped out all the equity on her house and she's now working 70-80 hours a week with three children just to keep up with payments. This can't go on anymore."


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