An Open Race

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A 700,000-year-old glacier called Snæfellsjökull almost appeared on Iceland’s presidential ballot for June 1.

“It’s time to challenge the status quo and elect a candidate that symbolizes endurance, resilience, and global interconnectedness,” said campaigners who collected signatures for the glacier, which is featured in Jules Verne’s novel, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, according to Firstpost. “Snæfellsjökull is already an emblem of Iceland and a custodian of geo-cultural wisdom, representing the very essence of stability and sustainability.”

The bid was unsuccessful, reported Positive News. But the move injected environmentalism into debates among Icelanders as they pondered who might next lead their Nordic island nation, wrote the Guardian, at a time when erupting volcanoes have forced thousands of Icelanders to evacuate their homes. A CNN video showed the stunning lava flows and the damage they’ve caused.

Icelanders now have around 76 other candidates potentially on the ballot when they head to the polls, noted Bloomberg, describing how the country’s online systems make it easy to enter the race. Scores of folks accidentally threw their hats in the ring via the country’s online election platform, in fact, before withdrawing.

These issues reflect Iceland’s small size and its more than a thousand years of democratic tradition. The country only has a population of 400,000 people, or slightly less than Tampa, Florida. As Le Monde explained, that number is 23 percent higher than the country’s population in 2008 when its banking sector collapsed due to the worldwide financial crisis. Foreign workers represent much of that gain. Immigrants are now 18 percent of the population in a country that has over the years severely restricted it. Unemployment is around 3 percent.

These newcomers to tiny Iceland have stirred controversies, however, especially as high inflation and interest rates put pressure on folks and the government’s controversial sale of its stake in a bank stirred protests. Officials sold their shares at a discount, noted Iceland Monitor.

The Icelandic parliament recently enacted legislation, for example, that absolves the government from fulfilling international human rights laws and other measures to protect immigrants in the country, the Reykjavik Grapevine reported. Critics of the measure said the country was abandoning its obligations. Supporters said they did not want taxpayers subsidizing migrants.

Former Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir, who resigned her job for the ceremonial post of president, saying she wanted to rise above politics, is now leading in the polls with almost 33 percent support among voters, wrote the Iceland Review. Political scientist Baldur Þórhallsson has around 27 percent support. Former Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr, a comedian, is drawing almost 20 percent.

The glacier is not predicted to win.

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