Independence Party (Iceland)

The Independence Party (Icelandic: Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) is a liberal-conservative,[1] Eurosceptic[1][3][4] political party in Iceland. It is currently the largest party in the Alþingi, with 16 seats. The chairman of the party is Bjarni Benediktsson. The secretary of the party is Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir.

Independence Party

ChairpersonBjarni Benediktsson
Vice-chairpersonÞórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir
SecretaryÁslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir
CEOÞórður Þórarinsson
Founded25 May 1929 (1929-05-25)
Merger ofConservative Party
Liberal Party
HeadquartersHáaleitisbraut 1,
105 Reykjavík
Youth wingYoung Independents
Liberal conservatism[1]
Economic liberalism[2]
Political positionCentre-right[5][6] to right-wing[7]
European affiliationEuropean Conservatives and Reformists Party
International affiliationInternational Democrat Union
Nordic affiliationConservative Group
Seats in the Althing
16 / 63
Election symbol

It was formed in 1929 through a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. This united the two parties advocating the dissolution of the Union of Denmark and Iceland; dissolution 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 Bjarni took the leadership after the 2009 defeat, every Independence Party leader has also held the office of Prime Minister. Since 2013, the Independence Party has joined the coalition government.

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,[8] particularly in Reykjavík.[9] It supports Icelandic membership of NATO but opposes the idea of joining the European Union (EU). 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.[10] From its first election, in 1931, it was the largest party in Iceland.[11]

The Independence Party won the 2007 elections, increasing their seat tally in the Althing by 3. It formed a new coalition government under Geir Haarde with the Social Democratic Alliance, after 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 Bjarni becoming Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs under the premiership of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson chairman of the Progressive Party. The government coalition was ended after the Panama Papers revealed that Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Bjarni Benediktsson and other known members of the Independence Party held funds in offshore bank accounts. The general election in 2016 yielded a government consisting of the Independence Party, Bright Future and the Reform Party. With the Independence Party holding 21 seats in Parliament. That government then proceeded to fall apart due to Bjarni Benediktsson's father's ties to a convicted paedophile that had his criminal records cleared by the Minister of the interior, an Independence Party MP. After the general elections 2017, called after much backlash from this decision, the Independence party formed a new government with the Left-Green Movement and the Progressive Party. The Independence Party now holds 16 seats in Parliament.


The party has been the sole major politically right-leaning 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.[12] The party, like the British Conservatives, states a claim to be primarily 'pragmatic', as opposed to ideological,[8][9][13] and its name is seen as an allusion to being independent of dogma (the original meaning - independence from Denmark - having been achieved long ago).[14] For most of its period of political dominance, the party has relied upon coalition government, and has made coalitions with many major parties in parliament.[15]

The Independence Party has generally been economically liberal and advocated limited government intervention in the economy.[8] 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.[9]

The party is social liberal on social issues and has historically been less conservative than other centre-right parties in Scandinavia.[9] 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.[16]

The party's skeptic position on EU membership was confirmed at its national congress in March 2009.[17] Its near-permanent position as Iceland's largest party has guaranteed Iceland's Atlanticist stance.[18] The party is in favour of allowing Icelanders to participate in peacekeeping missions, including in Afghanistan.[19]

Political support

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politics and government of

Historically, the party has been the most successful liberal conservative party in the Nordic countries.[12] It has a broad base of support, but is most strongly supported by Iceland's large fishing community and by businesses.[8] On the largest divide in Icelandic politics, between urban and rural areas, the Independence Party is firmly supported by rural areas, but its urban support is mostly found in Garðabær and Kópavogur.

The Independence Party has always attempted to avoid appealing to a specific social class.[20] As such, the party is relatively successful at attracting working-class voters,[15] which partly comes from the party's strong advocacy of independence in the 1930s.[21] However, most of its strength is in the middle class,[16][22] and the party is disproportionately supported by those on high incomes and those with university educations.[8]

The party has long been endorsed by Morgunblaðið,[16] an Icelandic newspaper of record.[23] 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 Vísir, now part of DV.[9]


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.[9] Neither splinter group managed to get seats in Althingi and vanished quickly. The Citizens' Party split from the party in 1983, but collapsed in 1994.[13]

Its youth wing, Young Independents, is by far the largest youth organisation in Iceland, with over 12,000 members. It is slightly more classically liberal than the senior party.[24]

The party has a very large membership base, with 15% of the total population being a member of the party.[25]

International relations

For years the Independence party was a member of the EPP that include members like Høyre (Norway), Moderate Party (Sweden), les Républicains (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.

Election results

Election Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1931 16,891 43.8
15 / 42
9 2nd Opposition
1933 17,131 48.0
20 / 42
5 1st Coalition
1934 21,974 42.3
20 / 49
0 1st Opposition
1937 24,132 41.3
17 / 49
3 2nd Opposition
1942 (Jul) 22,975 39.5
17 / 49
0 2nd Minority
1942 (Oct) 23,001 38.5
20 / 52
3 1st Opposition
1946 26,428 39.5
20 / 52
0 1st Coalition
1949 28,546 39.5
19 / 52
1 1st Minority
1953 28,738 37.1
21 / 52
2 1st Coalition
1956 35,027 42.4
19 / 52
2 1st Opposition
1959 (Jun) 36,029 42.5
20 / 52
1 1st Opposition
1959 (Oct) 33,800 39.7
24 / 60
4 1st Coalition
1963 37,021 41.4
24 / 60
0 1st Coalition
1967 36,036 37.5
23 / 60
1 1st Coalition
1971 38,170 36.2
22 / 60
1 1st Opposition
1974 48,764 42.7
25 / 60
3 1st Coalition
1978 39,982 32.7
20 / 60
5 1st Opposition
1979 43,838 35.4
21 / 60
1 1st Opposition
1983 50,251 38.6
23 / 60
2 1st Coalition
1987 41,490 27.2
18 / 63
5 1st Coalition
1991 60,836 38.6
26 / 63
8 1st Coalition
1995 61,183 37.1
25 / 63
1 1st Coalition
1999 67,513 40.7
26 / 63
1 1st Coalition
2003 61,701 33.6
22 / 63
4 1st Coalition
2007 66,754 36.6
25 / 63
3 1st Coalition
2009 44,371 23.7
16 / 63
9 2nd Opposition
2013 50,454 26.7
19 / 63
3 1st Coalition
2016 54,990 29.0
21 / 63
2 1st Coalition
2017 49,543 25.2
16 / 63
5 1st Coalition


Chairman Took office Left office Duration
1 Jón Þorláksson
29 May 1929 2 October 1934 5 years, 4 months, 3 days
(1,952 days)
2 Ólafur Thors
2 October 1934 22 October 1961 27 years, 20 days
(9,882 days)
3 Bjarni Benediktsson
22 October 1961 10 July 1970 8 years, 8 months, 18 days
(3,183 days)
4 Jóhann Hafstein
10 July 1970 12 October 1973 3 years, 3 months, 2 days
(1,190 days)
5 Geir Hallgrímsson
12 October 1973 6 November 1983 10 years, 25 days
(3,677 days)
6 Þorsteinn Pálsson
6 November 1983 10 March 1991 7 years, 4 months, 4 days
(2,681 days)
7 Davíð Oddsson
10 March 1991 16 October 2005 14 years, 7 months, 6 days
(5,334 days)
8 Geir Haarde
16 October 2005 29 March 2009 3 years, 5 months, 13 days
(1,260 days)
9 Bjarni Benediktsson
29 March 2009 Present 10 years, 261 days
(3913 days)


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