Independence Party (Iceland)

This article is about the modern Independence Party. For the historical Independence Party, see Independence Party (Iceland, historical).
Independence Party
Chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson
Vice-chairperson Ólöf Nordal
Secretary Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir
CEO Þórður Þórarinsson
Founded 25 May 1929 (1929-05-25)
Merger of Conservative Party
Liberal Party
Headquarters Háaleitisbraut 1,
105 Reykjavík
Youth wing Young Independents
Ideology Liberal conservatism
Economic liberalism[1]
Classical liberalism
Political position Centre-right to Right-wing[2][3]
European affiliation Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe
International affiliation International Democrat Union
Colours Blue
Seats in the Althing
21 / 63

The Independence Party (Icelandic: Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) is a centre-right political party in Iceland.[4][5] Liberal conservative[6] and Eurosceptic,[6][7][8] it is the largest party in the Althing, with 21 seats. The chairman of the party is Bjarni Benediktsson and vice chairman is Ólöf Nordal. The secretary of the party is Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir.

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 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,[9] particularly in Reykjavík.[10] 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.[11] From its first election, in 1931, it was the largest party in Iceland.[12]

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 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.[13] The party, like the British Conservatives, states a claim to be primarily 'pragmatic', as opposed to ideological,[9][10][14] and its name is seen as an allusion to being independent of dogma.[15] 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.[16]

The Independence Party has generally been economically liberal and advocated limited government intervention in the economy.[9] 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.[10]

The party has historically been less conservative on social issues than centre-right parties in Scandinavia.[10] Most significant legislative advances in LGBT rights have happened while the IP was in government.[17] 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.[18]

The party's sceptic position on EU membership was confirmed at its national congress in March 2009.[19] Its near-permanent position as Iceland's largest party has guaranteed Iceland's Atlanticist stance.[20] The party is in favour of allowing Icelanders to participate in peacekeeping missions, including in Afghanistan.[21]

Political support

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Historically the party has been the most successful right-wing party in the Nordic countries.[13] It has a broad base of support, but is most strongly supported by Iceland's large fishing community and by businesses.[9] On the biggest divide in Icelandic politics, between urban and rural areas, the Independence Party is firmly supported by the urban population,[9] mostly found in Reykjavík.[10]

The Independence Party has always attempted to avoid appealing to a social class.[22] As such, the party is relatively successful at attracting working class voters,[16] which partly comes from the party's strong advocacy of independence in the 1930s.[23] However, most of its strength is in the middle class,[18][24] and the party is disproportionately supported by those on high incomes and those with university educations.[9]

The party has long been endorsed by Morgunblaðið,[18] an Icelandic newspaper of record.[25] 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.[10]


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.[10] 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.[14]

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.[26]

The party has a very large membership base, with 15% of the total population being a member of the party.[27]

International relations

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.

Election results

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


Olafur Thors was party leader from 1934 to 1961, making him the longest-serving leader in the party's history.

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.

Leader From To
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


  1. Siaroff, Alan, The Effects of Differing Electoral Systems on Party Politics, Government Formation and Voter Turnout, p. 69
  2. Deloy, Corinne (May 2, 2013). "The rightwing opposition wins in the general elections in Iceland". Robert Schuman Foundation.
  3. Nuttall, Mark (2005), Encyclopedia of the Arctic, Routledge, p. 1556
  4. "Centre-left wins Iceland election". BBC News. 26 April 2009.
  5. Waterfield, Bruno (26 April 2009). "Iceland elects new Left-wing government". The Daily Telegraph.
  6. 1 2 Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  7. Steed, Michael (1988). "Identifying Liberal Parties". In Kirchner, Emil Joseph. Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 376–95. ISBN 978-0-521-32394-9.
  8. Nergelius, Joakim (2006). Nordic and other European constitutional traditions. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 978-90-04-15171-0.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Siaroff, Alan (2000). Comparative European party systems: an analysis of parliamentary elections. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-8153-2930-5.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Tomasson (1980), p. 42
  11. McHale, Vincent E.; Skowronski, Sharon (1983). Political Parties of Europe: Albania-Norway. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 522. ISBN 978-0-313-23804-8.
  12. Tomasson (1980), p. 41–2
  13. 1 2 Hansen, Erik Jørgen (2006). Welfare trends in the Scandinavian countries, Part 2. New York: M. E. Sharpe. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-87332-844-9.
  14. 1 2 Cross, William (2007). Democratic reform in New Brunswick. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press. pp. 68–9. ISBN 978-1-55130-326-0.
  15. Woods, Leigh; Gunnarsdóttir, Ágústa (1997). Public Selves and Political Stages. London: Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-3-7186-5873-2.
  16. 1 2 Arter, David (2006). Democracy in Scandinavia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7190-7047-1.
  17. LBGT-rights in Iceland
  18. 1 2 3 Gunnlaugsson, Helgi; Galliher, John F. (2000). Wayward Icelanders. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-299-16534-5.
  19. "Ályktun um Evrópumál samþykkt".
  20. Bailes, Alyson J. K.; Herolf, Gunilla; Sundelius, Bengt (2006). The Nordic countries and the European Security and Defence Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-19-929084-0.
  21. Malley-Morrison, Kathleen (2009). State Violence and the Right to Peace. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-275-99651-2.
  22. Jónsson, Ásgeir (2009). Why Iceland?. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-07-163284-3.
  23. Arter, David (1999). Scandinavian politics today. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7190-5133-3.
  24. Gill, Derek; Ingman, Stanley R. (1994). Eldercare, distributive justice, and the welfare state. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7914-1765-2.
  25. Pálsson, Gísli (2007). Anthropology and the new genetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-521-67174-3.
  26. "Vona að mitt framboð verði hvatning fyrir aðrar konur". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 16 September 1997. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  27. The Independence Party featured in Grapevine Magazine


External links

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