Independence Party (Iceland)
|Vice-chairperson||Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir|
|Founded||25 May 1929|
|Youth wing||Young Independents|
|International affiliation||International Democrat Union|
|European affiliation||Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists|
|Seats in the Althing|
|Politics of Iceland
The Independence Party (Icelandic: Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) is a centre-right political party in Iceland. Liberal conservative and Eurosceptic, it is one of the two largest parties in the Althing, with nineteen seats, the other one being the Progressive Party. The chairman of the party is Bjarni Benediktsson and vice chairman is Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir.
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, during the German occupation of Denmark. From 1929, the party won the largest share of the vote in every election until the 2009 election, when it fell behind the Social Democratic Alliance. Until Benediktsson took the leadership after the 2009 defeat, every Independence Party leader has also held the office of Prime Minister.
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 and high-earners, particularly in Reykjavík. It supports Icelandic membership of NATO. It is a member of the International Democrat Union and it joined the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) in November 2011, a centre-right eurosceptic European political party.
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 historical 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 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 Independence Party re-entered government after the general elections in 2013, gaining 19 seats in parliament and the most votes again becoming Iceland's largest party. The Independence Party hence formed a majority government with the Progressive Party with Benediktsson becoming Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs under the premiership of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson chairman of the Progressive Party.
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,. The party, like the British Conservatives, states a claim to be 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 has generally been economically liberal and advocated limited government intervention in the economy. It was originally committed to laissez-faire economics, but shifted its economic policies left-wards in the 1930s, accepting the creation of a welfare state.
The party has historically 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.
The party's sceptic position on EU membership was confirmed at its national congress in 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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Historically the party has been 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. 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, an 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 leftwards 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.
For years the Independence party was a member of the EPP that include members like Høyre (Norway), Moderate Party (Sweden), UPM (France), the Kokoomus (Finland), and CDU (Germany). But with a new more eurosceptic leadership of the party it joined the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) in November 2011, a centre-right eurosceptic political organization. Members of the AECR, includes among others, the British Conservative Party, Polish Law and Justice, and the Czech Civic Democratic Party.
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.
|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
- 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.
- About the Independence Party