Sunday, April 26, 2009

After the Collapse, Iceland’s New Government

The early election results for Iceland are in, and the Independence party is out.

It’s a result that surprises no one, as the Independence party presided over the worst financial collapse in Iceland’s long history, for years actively encouraging the banking excesses that led to the collapse of the banking industry and the currency and left the country owing the International Monetary Fund $30,000 per resident.

What surprises some is that two liberal-leaning parties, the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement, won enough seats to form a government. That never happened before. Another first is the number of new members of parliament. Just 36 of 63 members of parliament are returning from the previous session.

The results somewhat echo the U.S. elections of 2006. A groundswell of popular discontent led voters to throw out the conservative-leaning ruling party after it had taken so many risks that it had scared away many of its conservative supporters. Politicians who want to learn a lesson from this might recall that conservatism originally included the idea of avoiding and minimizing risks. Regardless of how many conservative stripes politicians can claim, if they are seen gambling recklessly with a country’s fate, they risk being thrown out by the voters.