Analysis: Iceland vote: 98 to 99% say NO! to Icesave-law

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Analysis: Iceland vote: 98 to 99% say NO! to Icesave-law

The election on the government's Icesave-law was held today in Iceland and the first results indicate that over 98% of valid votes say no to the law. About 5% of the ballots were invalid or blank. This result is a big blow to the government of Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir and Finance Minister Steingrímur J. Sigfússon. In TV interviews the duo tried to play down the significance of the vote, pointing out that turnout was lower than in election to Althingi, Iceland’s Parliament. The election on the governments Icesave law was held today and the first results indicate that over 98% of valid votes say no to the law. About 5% of the ballots were invalid or blank. This result is a big blow to the government of Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir and Finance Minister Steingrímur J. Sigfússon. In TV interviews the duo tried to play down the significance of the vote, pointing out that turnout was lower than in election to Althingi, Iceland’s Parliament.

The leaders of the opposition were all delighted over the resounding no. Polls had indicated that the result might be over 80% no, but the almost unanimous verdict of the nation comes as a surprise. Bjarni Benediktsson, Chairman of the right wing Independence Party said that this outcome was the result of a relentless fight against the government’s agreement with the two governments. He said that as a result the government would have to present a clear plan to the Althingi on its goals.

Benediktsson said that the vote was a question of whether Iceland should sholder the responsibility for the minimum insurance of 20.887 € per account, the full interest cost of the Dutch and the British and on top of that all risk if the defunct Landsbanki should pay less of the total loss than what is now expected. “One also worries about how the government leaders talk about what happens next, as if the fact that the UK and Holland no longer are going to profit from the interest charged is a great victory for us in the negotiations.”

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Chairman of the centrist Progressive Party said that now Althingi could concentrate on economic issues. The Icesave issue could wait, but if the UK and Holland were willing to solve the issue, then it would be OK to help them.

Sigurdardóttir and Sigfússon both said that this would have no effect on the cooperation of the two parties, the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green. On TV it seem as if they had not fully grasped how completely one-sided the vote was. Neither had participated in the election and both seemed to believe that next week they would go back to business as usual.

The Prime Minister said that not coming to an agreement on Icesave was costing the nation a lot of money and the time has come to calculate that cost.

The vote was the first of its kind since 1944 when Iceland gained independence from Denmark.