Opinion split on final election resolution

24.11.2021 - 11:16
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Birgir Þór Harðarson - RÚV
The preparatory parliamentary credentials committee presented its conclusions to Alþingi at its official opening yesterday and the preparatory committee’s members were then voted onto the committee proper. The committee is divided on what to do about the disputed vote count and re-count in Northwest Iceland, but a majority believe the re-count result should stand. The final decision lies with Alþingi, in a vote tomorrow.

Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir believes that whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s vote in parliament, the matter will probably end up before the European Court of Human Rights regardless. It is expected MPs will face three choices: to hold the election again in the Northwest Iceland constituency, to allow the existing result from the re-count to stand, or to call for a re-count of all votes cast in the constituency. Katrín says she has not yet made up her mind which way to vote and plans to read the parliamentary credentials committee report carefully before tomorrow. 

The PM confirmed that there is no Vinstri grænir (Left Green) party line and that her MPs will be free to vote as they see fit. “Our representative [on the committee] has expressed their position and it is now time for others to be able to go over the report and make up their minds.” 

The committee is working because of formal complaints about procedures followed in Northwest Iceland after the 25th September election. Five MPs complained, including Guðmundur Gunnarsson, the lead candidate for Viðreisn (the Reform Party) in the Northwest. He has already declared his intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if Alþingi votes to approve the existing result from the re-count. Katrín believes the matter will probably be sent to the ECHR by somebody, whichever way parliament votes tomorrow. 

Another of the five MPs who brought formal complaints is Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir (Samfylkingin/Social Democrats). She tells RÚV she will be disappointed if Alþingi votes to allow the re-count result to stand. “If it will be the result that a majority of parliament believes the flawed re-count in the Nortwest Iceland constituency was not bad enough that there is a need to hold the election again, then it will be a huge disappointment, of course. Not only a personal disappointment, but also for democracy and public trust in fair and legal elections.” Rósa Björk adds that nothing she has seen in the report so far neutralises her complaint. 

Björn Leví Gunnarsson, the Píratar (Pirates) representative on the committee, says be believes the fairest outcome would be to re-run the election, in all constituencies of the country. He says he speaks for his whole party. His opinion is not one of the committee’s three proposed actions, and therefore he did not sign off on the committee’s report, presented yesterday. 

Storage of ballots biggest mistake 

The report released yesterday judges the storage of ballots as the most serious flaw in the process in the Northwest. Ballots were stored between the count and the re-count in open boxes, in a room that was not properly locked or sealed, and that security cameras did not monitor. As well as this, four hotel staff had free access to the space the ballots were stored in. 

The report states that it is not clear exactly when the back door of the counting room at Hótel Borgarnes was locked, but that hotel staff had access to the front of the room throughout. It also notes that when the head of the constituency electoral committee returned at 11.59 on Sunday 26th September, he was alone with the ballots until the next committee member arrived at 12.35. These inconsistencies might not have made a difference if the re-count result was the same, but the two counts offered up results that were sufficiently different to change the distribution of equalisation seats across the whole country. It is not believed votes were tampered with, but the inconsistencies make it hard to prove this, and therefore draw the reliability of the count into question.

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