About the Independence Party

Introduction

The Independence Party was founded on May 25th 1929 through the merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. It is the largest political movement in Iceland.
What mainly characterizes the ideas of the members of the Independence Party is a belief in the freedom of the individual and in each individual's assuming responsibility for his or her own actions, tolerance towards different points of view and ways of living, an emphasis on the common interests of different societal groups and doubts about the ability of the state to solve all problems.

Fundamental Values

A few key issues can best summarize the fundamental values of the Independence Party. First, the Independence Party is democratic. It places its confidence and trust in each and every citizen in the certainty that when he or she is given the circumstances and opportunities to use their talents and energy and reap the rewards of doing so, the greatest benefits for society as a whole are achieved.

Some would regard putting democracy at the top of the list of issues that a political party in a democratic society stands for as stating the obvious. However, democracy means more to the Independence Party than to many political movements.  The party has always stressed its belief that the nation is obliged to contribute to its own security and, at the same time, strengthen the defences of those parts of the world that enjoy the privileges of democratic rule. The Independence Party believes that democracy is worth fighting for.

On the home front, the party has repeatedly fought for a just voting system in parliamentary elections. The party supports distribution of power in society and has put words into action in that area. However, first and foremost the policy of the Independence Party tells us that the economic freedom of individuals is one of the key prerequisites to democracy and decent standards of living in a modern nation.

The main pillar of the Independence Party's policy is the freedom of each individual. Individual participation in the economy is vital to achieve progress and advancement. The party's advocates have claimed that the gain an active individual can harvest by his or her initiative and endeavour is an invaluable incentive for the economy. This energy is abundant and should never be restrained.

The policy of the Independent Party allows for solid power of the state within a limited field of action. The state must uphold law and order. It represents the nation in the international arena and takes care of its interests vis-Ó-vis other nations. It provides for many common needs that individuals are incapable of. In other areas, the state should minimize its actions and interference.
The Independence Party's name has always been both a pledge and a concise explanation of the party's main policy.
The Independence Party fought for the full independence of the nation and wants to ensure that independent individuals form the ballast of a free and powerful economy. The party's policy is based on people's ability to reap the benefit of their work and emphasises the importance of people finding it worthwhile to do their best. At the same time, care should be taken that people are not left destitute because of sickness or poverty; people who find themselves in such situations should be helped towards helping themselves.
It is in accordance with the Independence Party's policy of equality that all Icelanders should have equal opportunities in terms of education and employment, and that conditions should enable everyone to develop and enjoy his or her talents. In certain instances, the state can be a useful tool towards achieving these goals. However, the Independence Party rejects the notion that it should be a desired goal to equalize people's positions to such a degree that working hard becomes irrelevant, and a person's efforts towards developing his or her talents, in his or her own interests or those of others, count for nothing.
The members of the Independence party will never become "specialists" in dividing economic assets between members of society and believe that such actions mostly succeed in increasing societal injustice. Rather, the Independence Party emphasises increasing affluence as the best way of securing general welfare, not least for those needing assistance.

Foreign Policy

The Independence Party has always played an important role in strengthening Iceland's ties with the international community and has endorsed international cooperation - whether political, cultural or military - in order to serve the nation's interests. Iceland is a member of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe and the European Free Trade Association, to name a few organisations. As a participant in the European Economic Area, Iceland has direct access to the European Union's Open Market. Iceland is not a member of the European Union.

Iceland supports the quest for and the preservation of democracy and human rights everywhere. Human rights are not to be compromised for any reason. They are one and the same for all human beings. Iceland has signed all major international human rights treaties and declarations and takes an active stand against human rights violations.
 

The Party's Position in Society

The policy of the Independence Party accords strongly with Icelanders, and the nation shares its values with the party. It has gained a strong position in society solely through democratic elections. It holds a majority in the councils of quite a number of towns or has formed a majority with another political party or movement in other municipalities. Since 1931 the party has generally gained 35%-42% of the votes cast in parliamentary elections and, since its foundation, has been the largest political party in Iceland.


Percentage of votes cast in favour of the Independence Party in parliamentary elections 1931-1999


1931  43.8% 1946  39.50% 1963  41.40% 1983  38.70%
1933  48.0% 1949  39.50% 1967  37.50% 1987  27.20%
1934  42.3% 1953  37.10% 1971  36.20% 1991  38.60%
1937  41.3% 1956  42.40% 1974  42.70% 1995  37.10%
1942/7  39.5% 1959  42.50% 1978  32.70% 1999  40.70%
1942/10  38.5% 1959  39.70% 1979  35.40%   

Structure and membership

The National Convention, which is held approximately biannually, is the highest authority in all matters of the party. Each constituency council has a proportional number of representatives, based on its number of members and the number of votes cast in favour of the party in the constituency in the last parliamentary elections.

The Central Board has executive power, determines the disposition of the party's assets and is responsible for upholding the party's organisational rules. The Central Board is a body of around 30 people, elected at the National Convention and appointed by the regional units, by the parliamentary group and by national organisations within the party. The Central Board can, under certain circumstances, decide the party's political policy.

The Executive Board is a body of five: the chairman of the party, the vice chairman plus three others elected by the Central Board - the chairman of the parliamentary group and two other members. The executive board receives its power from the Central Board and has a coordinating function.

The Party Council decides what the political policy of the party is whenever the National Convention has not produced a resolution. The different organisational entities of the party are represented in the Party Council as well as its employees, its candidates, its members and former members of parliament.

Constituency Councils are responsible for mutual affairs of the party in the constituencies. Regional Councils elect their representatives. The Constituency Councils have the final word on lists of candidates in parliamentary elections.

The smallest entities in each area, the Local Organisations, form a Council of Representatives that is responsible for taking care of the party's common interests in the area. The council of representatives decides the list of candidates in local elections.

Local Organisations are the basis of the party's functions. Every new member of the party joins a Local Organisation automatically. Each organisation has a democratic structure, with an elected board that has well defined responsibilities. The organisations' role is to strengthen the party as a whole and to gain support for its policy. In order to achieve their goals, the local units, for example, organise political meetings where experts and laymen debate relevant issues. All decisions regarding local issues are taken as close to home as possible and not from above.

Apart from local organisations, there are 26 working groups, each assigned to a special issue, having the continuous task of revising the party's policy. Each working group has a board of four people - all experts in their fields - plus a representative of the parliamentary group. The groups formulate drafts - based on the fundamental values of the party - that are put before the National Convention and, after revisions and approval the outcome, 26 resolutions, form the party's policy.


Candidates' selection

As stated above, the Regional Organisations decide on the lists of candidates. The process of selection is either through a vote, where supporters of the party can make their own lists, or a regional organisation elects a committee that puts together a list. Local members decide everything with no interference from the party's leadership. Elections, both parliamentary and municipal, are held every four years.

Parliament and Government

At the moment, the Independence Party holds 26 parliamentary seats out of 63. The parliamentarians all take part in legislative work through parliamentary committees and general sessions. In Iceland there is a strong tradition of coalitions of two or more political parties, since no single party has ever won a majority in the parliament. The Independence Party has led the government, now with the Progressive Party, for more than two and a half consecutive terms and has brought about many changes that have substantially benefited the economy as well as the people of the country.

Funding

Political parties in Iceland get unconditional financial support from the government to meet their expenses. Apart from this, the Independence Party enjoys financial support from many individuals and businesses.


The Fundamental Policy of the Independence Party

The Independence Party was founded on May 25th 1929 through the merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.

The Independence Party has always been a strong and vital social force in Iceland. The explanation of the party┤s strong position is above all to be found in its policies and the ideals of its many members. Because of the Policy of Independence more Icelanders have been drawn towards the Independence Party than towards any other political movement.

The Policy of Independence has never become a fully formed ideology. Rather, the members of the Independence Party are on a constant quest for new ideas which can prove useful in the never ending societal adaptation to changed conditions. What mostly characterizes the ideas of the members of the Independence Party is a belief in the freedom of the individual and in each individual assuming responsibility for his or her own actions, tolerance towards different points of view and ways of living, an emphasis on the common interests of different societal groups and doubts about the ability of the state to solve all problems.

The party┤s name, the Independence Party, has never simply been a name but always both a pledge and a concise explanation of the party┤s main policy.

The Independence Party fought for the full independence of the nation and wants to ensure that independent individuals form the ballast of a free and powerful economy. The party┤s policy is based on people being able to reap the benefit of their work and places an emphasis on people finding it worth while to do their best. At the same time care should be taken that people are not left destitute because of sickness or poverty; people who find themselves in such situations should be helped towards helping themselves.

It is in accordance with the Independence Party┤s policy of equality that all Icelanders should have equal opportunities in terms of education and employment and that conditions should be such that everyone has an opportunity to develop and enjoy his or her talents. In certain instances the state can be a useful tool towards achieving those goals. However, the Independence Party rejects the notion that it should be a desired goal to equalize people┤s positions to such a degree that working hard becomes irrelevant and a person┤s efforts towards developing his or her talents, in his or her own interests or those of others, count for nothing.

The members of the Independence party will never become "specialists" in dividing economic assets between members of society and believe that such actions mostly succeed in increasing societal injustice. Rather, the Independence Party places an emphasis on increasing affluence, since that way general welfare, not least for those who need assistance, can best be secured.

History shows that when equality is combined with rewards for those who fruitfully use their talents and energy the greatest benefits for society as a whole are achieved.

Success for everyone - Declaration of Political Policy

The Independence Party is the ballast of Icelandic society. During the 70 years that have elapsed since it was founded the nation has done best when the party┤s influence in government has been the greatest. The Independence Party has shown courage and stamina during difficult times in the life of the Icelandic nation and both responsibility and foresight when times have been tough. The main values that the Independence Party has represented ever since it was founded have, through time, become the general values of the nation. The freedom of the individual and freedom of actions along with competition and equality based on fair and encouraging rules of conduct are what should guide the development of the nation┤s economic life. The valuables produced through the efforts of the economic sector have made it possible to establish and maintain first class health- and social security systems without overburdening families and businesses. The emphasis on human rights and on the solidarity of democratic nations in matters relating to foreign policy and national security is no longer a controversial issue in Icelandic politics. Where that is concerned the policy of the Independence Party has won a complete victory.

The values of the Independence Party are the values of the future. Economic progress is increasingly based on harnessing the enterprise and knowledge of individuals. Respect for the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the familiy to choose their own sphere of activity becomes more and more important. That a christian outlook on life, opposition to prejudice and an emphasis on equality should be the structure on which our rules of conduct are based is a view that the nation is unanimous about. The common interests of both social classes and geographical regions should be prioritized.

Success for everyone means that individuals, groups, social classes and geographical regions enjoy increased prosperity. This prosperity is closely linked to the ability of the economic sector to produce valuables but an emphasis on good care for children, the aged and infirm is an integral part of Icelandic culture and society. The Independence Party is responsible towards all Icelanders and is the Party of unity, not division. The nation and the economy should work in cooperation with the country┤s nature. Individuals should be encouraged to treat their environment in a responsible manner. In the highland, the conservation of natural sites of great importance must go hand in hand with moderate harnessing of natural resources for the production of power, grazing and tourism. The fish stocks, the country┤s vegetation and other resources must be utilized in a responsible manner and the environment should not be spoiled by pollution.

The Independence Party has led the government for the last two electoral terms. During the former term the government led the nation out of a period of great economic difficulties into an era of price stability and increased efficiency in a number of areas. Healthy competition, responsibility and increased economic freedom along with an emphasis on thrift in the management of state finances were the main goals. During the term that is currently coming to an end, those reforms have been continued, e.g. through the reorganization of the fiancial market, pensions and labour law. State finance continues to be strictly controlled and the Treasury is currently run with a surplus in spite of taxes having been cut. An amendment to the constitution is planned for the express purpose of changing the set up of constituencies in order to equalize voting rights. During the last eight years, big projects in communications have been completed and thorough reform of the courts has strengthened the rule of law.

The nation has reaped the benefits of the changes that have taken place in the economy and in government during the leadership of the Independence Party. Thousands of new jobs have been created, unemployment has decreased, there has been an increase in real earnings and the general standard of living has gone up by one fourth since 1995. Progress and prosperity are evident and the earnings of the nation have never been higher than they now are.

Improved working conditions and a well managed economy have made it possible to reach even further. The increased knowledge and professionalism of managers and employees in every sector of the economy now make it possible for businesses to become even more successful. This, the EEA Agreement and the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization have revolutionized the opportunities for Icelandic companies to expand into foreign markets. It is the aim of the Independence Party to actively encourage further growth and innovation in the economic sector through continued reform of working conditions. Increased research, development and initiative will be encouraged. Under the leadership of the Independence Party taxes will continue to be cut.

Public companies will be privatized, competition will be introduced into the energy sector, the financial market will be made more active and the efficiency of the monitoring of public works will be increased. Sensitivity and reason will govern the management of environmental issues and companies will be encouraged to set forth their environmental policy in order to decrease waste and increase the production of valuables. Legislation regarding fishing management will be developed with the goal in mind of reaching a consensus without jeopardizing the objectives of stock preservation or feasibility nor disturbing the basis for decisions about operations. The agricultural sector will be better prepared for participation in the competitive economic market without jeopardizing the livelihoods of farmers. Increased professionalism will be required in government administration in order to improve services and attitudes towards its users.

The Independence Party wants to preserve price stability through proper economic management, which is a prerequisite for people being able to make reasonable decisions about their personal finances. State finances will be closely monitored and public debts will continue to be paid off. The increased production of the economic sector means that in spite of lowered taxes more money is available and thus there is room for a moderate increase in expenditure for a number of important projects. General savings will be encouraged.

The young generation which is now receiving an education, starting careers and families has more opportunities in front of it than any preceeding Icelandic generation. They have a real choice as to whether they want to live in Iceland and thus Icelandic society needs to be competitive. However, this young generation is also besieged by a number of dangers, including drugs, indifference and social isolation. The Independence Party wants to minimize those dangers as much as possible through a practical approach to the prevention of drug abuse and through the preservation of social security. Furthermore, the Independence Party wants to help the young generation develop into strong individuals who have the moral strenght and willpower to pick and choose according to their best interests.

Now, more than ever, education and knowledge are imperative when it comes to the earnings and success of nations. The Independece Party will continue, with unflagging interest, the strong development of education that has characterized its term in government and the independence of schools will be increased. The Independence Party greatly emphasizes that schools at every level and other institutions which offer further and continuing education make those participating in the Icelandic labour market better able to meet the knowledge and competency requirements neccessary for achieving success in managing information technology, to provide them with language proficiency skills and help them achieve the tools necessary for success in international affairs. The Independence Party will emphasize the importance of education and knowledge being put to good use through encouraging individuals towards achievements and enterprise.

The cultural life of the nation is at a peek now as the Independence Party has paid it great attention during its term in government. Icelandic culture is not only one of the basic tenets of the Icelandic national consciousness but it is increasingly becoming a more and more important tool of competition for the nation and the interaction between a vibrant cultural life and a successful economy are ever increasing. The Independence Party will continue to be a staunch supporter of culture and to facilitate new opportunities for the Icelandic cultural sector.

The Independence Party considers the strenghtening of the regions outside of the capital as one of its main objectives for the next electoral term. The goal is that the living conditions of every citizen, irrespective of his or her place of residence, be in tune with modern standards. It is important that both the state and the municipalities join forces to reverse the regional development trend of the last few years towards a strengthening of the municipalities and regions around the country. The goal is that new jobs in the growth sectors of the economy be created around the country to replace those that disappear due to general rationalization and changed modes of production. A new regional development plan, an increase of funds funnelled towards communication, the operation of holding companies and venture capital funds of the New Business Venture Fund (Nřsk÷punarsjˇ­ur) will all contribute towards achieving the goal of progress and development. Measures aimed at equalization, e.g. regarding the costs of education and the heating of houses, will be increased. The unification of municipalities and the transfer of projects away from the state and towards the municipalities has strengthened the municipalities and provided a basis for increased equilibrium in regional development. In spite of all this some municipalities have been facing difficulties and thus it is paramount that the income distribution between the state and the municipalities be reconsidered. The Independence Party particularly wants to assist those municipalities which have faced difficulties as a result of unfavourable population developments.

Contributions towards public health have increased dramatically in the past few years and the Icelandic health service is among the best in the world. On the other hand, increased efficiency in the health service and revisions of certain sectors within it are always important and the health service must always be able to conform to strict quality requirements. The Independence Party will continue to work towards a continued strengthening of the health service and place special emphasis on new ways to utilize the enterprize of individuals, companies and organizations in order to ensure that better service be provided for less money. The Independence Party believes that the role of the state as both purchaser and economic actor in the health service has to be better separated in order to strengthen consciousness about costs and increase control. The Independence Party wants to utilize the opportunities that independent research and scientific activity related to health services provides in terms of new employment and increased opportunities for University educated people.

Through the leadership of the Independence Party the Icelandic system of Pension Funds has been greatly reformed which means that in the foreseeable future the Funds will be strong enough to mostly take care of the incomes of pensioners. As a continuation of this work, the Independence Party considers it important to review, in relation to the tax system, the pension system of the national social insurance and other public assistance. Support for those who need it must be simplified so that both the welfare- and the tax systems become both logical and intelligible to the individuals and in order for those systems to work as much as possible as one whole. Provisions for reductions must be kept to a minimum. The Independence Party will ensure that the standard of living for pensioners will get better in tandem with general prosperity and thus the disabled and the elderly will reap the benefits of the economic success of the nation along with the general population.

The family is one of the cornerstones of society and the welfare of the family is the main objective of both economic activity and the activities of the government. Fundamental and rapid social- and lifestyle changes have placed increased pressure on the family and thus the Independence Party wants to strenghten its position. It is important that individuals can choose different paths in life without having to face prejudice or discrimination. The Independence Party does not want everyone to be made from the same mould or to be pressured into prearranged roles. Equality is a prerequisite for the development of the individual and for ensuring that everyone gets to develop his or her talents and excercise his or her opportunities both privately and in the public life. The Independence Party will continue to work towards practical solutions to ensuring equal opportunities for men and women, e.g. through a lengthening of maternity leave and through giving both mothers and fathers an equal right to go on leave following the birth of their child. The Independence Party would like Icelandic managers to increase their regard for new modes of living and to make their methods of work compatible with the needs of the family. This is a common concern for families, the economy and the society as a whole if it wants to be able to compete for the services of the younger generation.

The Independence Party has always worked towards reform and progress and that work has been successful. This work, however, never ends. Great change for the better is often accompanied by hardship but the Independence Party regards such problems as tasks that need to be dealt with and therefore nobody gets left behind when success is achieved through the leadership of the party. In the upcoming elections the Independence Party seeks the support of voters for its continued leadership of the country┤s governement. The Independence Party has shown that through its leadership the individual and the nation as a whole achieve the greatest degree of success. A vote cast in favour of the Independence Party is a vote cast in favour of success - for everyone.

Reykjavik, march 1999.

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