- Independence Party (Iceland)
Chairman Bjarni Benediktsson Vice chairperson Ólöf Nordal Founded 25 May 1929 Headquarters Háaleitisbraut 1
Ideology Liberal conservatism,
Political position Fiscal: Centre-right
International affiliation International Democrat Union European affiliation Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists Official colours Blue Seats in the Althing Website xd.is Politics of Iceland
The Independence Party (Icelandic: Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) is a centre-right political party in Iceland. Liberal conservative and Eurosceptic, it is the second-largest party in the Althing, with sixteen seats. The chairman of the party is Bjarni Benediktsson and vice chairman is Ólöf Nordal.
It was formed in 1929 through a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. This united the two parties advocating Icelandic independence, which was achieved in 1944. From 1929, the party was the largest party in the country until the 2009 election, when it fell behind the Social Democratic Alliance. Since the 2009 elections opinion polls have indicated that the party has regained its former position as the largest party. Until Benediktsson took the leadership after the 2009 defeat, every Independence Party leader has also held the office of Prime Minister.
Pragmatic rather than ideological, the Independence Party broadly encompasses all centre-right thought in Iceland. Economically liberal and opposed to interventionism, the party is supported most strongly by fishermen, high-earners, and the well-educated, particularly in Reykjavík. It is less socially conservative than its Scandinavian counterparts. It supports Icelandic membership of NATO and is the party most opposed to joining the European Union. It is a member of the International Democrat Union and the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.
The Independence Party was founded on 25 May 1929 through a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. It readopted the name of the Old Independence Party, which had split between the Conservatives and Liberals in 1927. From its first election, in 1931, it was the largest party in Iceland.
The Independence Party won the 2007 elections, increasing their seat tally in the Althing by 3. It formed a new coalition government under Haarde with the Social Democratic Alliance, after their current coalition partner, the Progressive Party, lost heavily in the elections.
In the 2009 elections, the Independence Party dropped from 25–26 to 16 seats in the Althing, becoming Iceland's second-largest party following the Social Democratic Alliance (which gained two seats, to 20.)
The party has been the sole major right-wing party in Iceland since its inception, and has captured a broad cross-section of centre-right voters. As a result, the party is not as far to the right as most right-wing parties in Scandinavia, serving as a 'catch-all' party, similar to the British Conservative Party. The party, like the British Conservatives, is primarily 'pragmatic', as opposed to ideological, and its name is seen as an allusion to being independent of dogma. For most of its period of political dominance, the party has relied upon coalition government, and has made coalitions with all major parties in parliament.
The Independence Party, however, has generally been economically liberal and advocated limited government intervention in the economy. It was originally committed to laissez-faire economics, but shifted its economy left-wards in the 1930s, accepting the creation of a welfare state.
On social issues, the party has been less conservative on social issues than centre-right parties in Scandinavia. The party was the only consistent advocate for the end of prohibition of beer, and provided three-quarters of voters in favour of legalisation; the ban was lifted in 1989.
Of all Iceland's parties, the Indepencence Party is the most opposed to membership of the European Union. The party's position on EU membership was confirmed at its national congress on March 2009. Its near-permanent position as Iceland's largest party has guaranteed Iceland's Atlanticist stance. The party is in favour of allowing Icelanders to participate in peacekeeping missions, including in Afghanistan.
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Politics and government of
The party is the most successful right-wing party in the Nordic countries. It has a broad base of support, but is most strongly supported by Iceland's large fishing community and by businesses. On the biggest divide in Icelandic politics, between urban and rural areas, the Independence Party is firmly supported by the urban population, mostly found in Reykjavík.
The Independence Party has always attempted to avoid appealing to a social class, and Iceland has never developed a political cleavage based on class. As such, the party is relatively successful at attracting working class voters, which partly comes from the party's strong advocacy of independence in the 1930s. However, most of its strength is in the middle class, and the party is disproportionately supported by those on high incomes and those with university educations.
The party has long been endorsed by Morgunblaðið, the Icelandic newspaper of record. Davíð Oddsson, the longest-serving Prime Minister, is one of two editors of the paper. The paper was also historically supported by the afternoon newspaper Visir, now part of DV.
The party has a tradition of individualism and strong personalities, which has proven difficult for the leadership to manage. The Commonwealth Party split in 1941, while the Republican Party left in 1953: both in opposition to the left-wards shift of the party away from classical liberalism. The Citizens' Party split from the party in 1983, but collapsed in 1994.
The party has a very large membership base, with 10% of the population being a member of the party.
Election Votes Vote % Seats Place 1946 26,428 39.5 20 1st 1949 28,546 39.5 19 1st 1953 28,738 37.1 21 1st 1956 35,027 42.4 19 1st June 1959 36,029 42.5 20 1st October 1959 33,800 39.7 24 1st 1963 37,021 41.4 24 1st 1967 36,036 37.5 23 1st 1971 38,170 36.2 22 1st 1974 48,764 42.7 25 1st 1978 39,982 32.7 20 1st 1979 43,838 35.4 21 1st 1983 50,251 38.6 23 1st 1987 41,490 27.2 18 1st 1991 60,836 38.6 26 1st 1995 61,183 37.1 25 1st 1999 67,513 40.7 26 1st 2003 61,701 33.7 22 1st 2007 66,749 36.6 25 1st 2009 44,369 23.7 16 2nd
All former chairmen of the party have held the office of the Prime Minister of Iceland: Ólafur Thors, Bjarni Benediktsson, Jóhann Hafstein, Geir Hallgrímsson, Þorsteinn Pálsson, Davíð Oddsson and Geir H. Haarde. Jón Þorláksson, the first chairman of the Independence party was Prime Minister for the Conservative party prior to the foundation of the Independence party. Gunnar Thoroddsen, who was the party's vice chairman 1974–1981, was Iceland's PM from 1980 to 1983, but the Independence Party did not officially support his government, although some MPs in the party did.
Leader From To 1st Jón Þorláksson 29 May 1929 2 October 1934 2nd Ólafur Thors 2 October 1934 22 October 1961 3rd Bjarni Benediktsson 22 October 1961 10 July 1970 4th Jóhann Hafstein 10 July 1970 12 October 1973 5th Geir Hallgrímsson 12 October 1973 6 November 1983 6th Þorsteinn Pálsson 6 November 1983 10 March 1991 7th Davíð Oddsson 10 March 1991 16 October 2005 8th Geir Haarde 16 October 2005 29 March 2009 9th Bjarni Benediktsson 29 March 2009 Present
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- Official website (English)
- The National Youth Organisation of the Independence Party, named Samband ungra sjálfstæðismanna or SUS in Icelandic, is one of the oldest political youth movements in Iceland. Its chairman is Ólafur Örn Nielsen.
- About the Independence Party
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