Reykjavík: Progressives could get seat on city council

In the wake of recent remarks made by the Progressive mayoral candidate that she would revoke a plot of land Reykjavík granted for the building of a mosque, the party now has enough support to possibly win a seat on city council.

According to a poll conducted from May 26 to 28 by Market and Media Research, Progressive Party support rose from 5.3% to 6.8% in the past week, finally giving them enough support to win a seat on city council. This is at the cost of the Independence Party, who lost a projected seat over the course of the last week.

Progressive Party support rose in the wake of remarks made by Progressive mayoral candidate Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir that she would revoke a decision made by Reykajvík city council in January 2013 to grant a plot of land for the building of a mosque to Reykjavík’s Muslim population.

“As long as we have a national church, we should not grant plots of land for buildings such as mosques or for Greek Orthodox churches,” she said in part. “I lived in Saudi Arabia for about a year. My opinion is not based on prejudice, but on experience. I have, for example, just returned from one of the biggest mosques in the world, in Abu Dhabi. There are no churches there. I respect the values of other countries, and think this is a given.”

These remarks have been met with opposition from every other mayoral candidate, as well as the Bishop of Iceland and Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, who is also a member of the Progressive Party.

However, Progressive Party chairperson and Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has chosen to avoid commenting on the matter directly, but accused political opponents of taking the worst interpretation of her remarks, and of trying to label the party as a whole as being xenophobic – an accusation which has appeared before, even from other Progressives.

At the same time, a statement from the Young Progressives expressing their lack of support for Sveinbjörg disappeared from their website shortly after Guðfinna Jóh. Guðmundsdóttir, a Progressive who is also running for Reykjavík city council, commented under the statement: “Cute”.

Reykjavík Grapevine, 30 May 2014