Government passes thousand days
The coalition agreement was signed between the three governing parties; Framsóknarflokkurinn (the Progressive Party), Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (the Independence Party), and Vinstri grænir (the Left Greens); on 30th November 2017.
On that date, Vinstri grænir leader and new prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said: “I especially want to name the healthcare system, education system, and transportation issues. But the big project is also to maintain economic stability alongside this development, and key to that is of course ahieving consensus on the employment market.”
Guðmundur Hálfdánarson, professor of history, says that after the collapse of a government and early elections following a turbulent few years in politics, there was a strong desire for stability in Icelandic society.
“I think the mood in society when the last election took place was a desire to have some social stability. There had been two governments between 2013 and 2017 and people had simply had enough and wanted more stability. That was achieved and has happened with this government and all the signs indicate that the leaders of the parties in this government work well together. It is always key to stability in coalition politics for the leaders to work well together,” Guðmundur says.
He says that stability and consensus are the hallmarks of the current government. He believes it performed well during the marathon of different collective bargaining negotiations. He adds that he is surprised the potential points of conflict represented by the new constitution and natural resource utilisation levies have largely been side-lined.
“It has to be said, on the other hand, that when you put together a government of parties like these of such different persuasions, all the way from right to left, then it is not likely that they will manage to agree easily on major changes, because it is simply difficult to agree on such things. This is not a government of great change, I would say. That is not my feeling, at least. Its main hallmark is this stability,” Guðmundur believes.
Not all plain sailing
As with all governments, the current leaders have managed to push some issues while so far failing at others. Among its successes to date are a spate of new conservation orders for sensitive natural sites, investment in infrastructure, changes to the student loans system, the approval of a new health policy with greater emphasis on mental health, and starting construction work on the new Landspítali university hospital site after years of delay.
Among its priorities that have not yet succeeded are the idea of a national ‘rainy day’ fund (similar to Norway’s oil fund except based on renewables), the media bill, and the proposed central highlands national park. Then, of course, there is the pandemic, which has shaken the authorities to the core, along with the rest of society.
Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir: “I would have named three things at the beginning of the term that would be big issues. Clearly that includes employment market matters, and I believe that very many of the actions already implemented and still in the works with regard to the ‘quality of life contracts’ will make a massive difference for the public and Icelandic society in order to improve equality and social fairness here. Second is climate change, and many, many big steps have been taken during this governmental term with ambitious measures on climate matters. And thirdly, I’d like to name a matter which we’re right in the middle of, and that is the fourth industrial revolution, technological development, the massive investment that we are putting into digital development in the public sector. Likewise, the massive investment we are putting into innovation so that Iceland will be ready to deal with these technological changes. These are projects that I foresaw and am very happy with how they are progressing.”