An unexpected leadership election will take place at the Social Democratic Alliance’s national conference this evening. The sitting party leader says he had no idea he would have opposition before yesterday evening.
Árni Páll Árnason told reporters that he did not know there would be another candidate for party chairman until Sigríður Ingibjörg Ingadóttir told him over the phone yesterday that she would be standing. Sigríður says she only made a firm decision to stand yesterday.
The party conference is taking place at Hótel Saga in Reykjavík and started this morning. RÚV’s correspondent at the conference says there is an excited atmosphere among party delegates who are members of the only Icelandic party to elect its leader by direct vote at party conferences.
Árni Páll, the current leader, will give his keynote speech at 16.30 and the leadership election will take place afterwards. A result is expected by about 19.00.
Stefanía Óskarsdóttir, political science lecturer at the University of Iceland, says it is hard to predict the outcome. Allowing conference delegates to choose the party leader could lead to a result which is not in keeping with the opinions of the wider public, or even party members not present at the conference. Árni is the sitting leader, and that works for him and against him in different ways, she says. Sigríður is a sitting MP for the party in Reykjavík and is popular among Social Democrats in Reykjavík—more so than those outside the capital.
The Social Democrats were the major partner in the 2009-2013 government, but took a major blow in the election. Árni Páll had only just taken over as leader at that election and says the party is now well on its way to recovery and once again being a rallying point for people with many different outlooks.