venerdì 14 gennaio 2011
Wikileaks : Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK312, Iceland: Progressive Party Elects New Leadership; Clears
14 Gennaio 2011
DE RUEHRK #0312/01 2421737
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301737Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2930
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000312
DEPT FOR EUR/NB
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR EAGR IC
SUBJECT: Iceland: Progressive Party Elects New Leadership; Clears
Decks for Forward-Looking Security Cooperation
REFS: A) Reykjavik 196
B) Reykjavik 205
C) Reykjavik 279
REYKJAVIK 00000312 001.2 OF 002
¶1. (SBU) Summary: At an August 19 congress, the Progressive Party
(PP - the minority member in Iceland's ruling conservative coalition
alongside PM Haarde's Independence Party), replaced former PM
Asgrimsson as party chair with Minister of Industry and Commerce Jon
Sigurdsson. Party rank and file and most media shrugged off
Asgrimsson's farewell speech slamming the USG over the impending
closure of Naval Air Station Keflavik, instead focusing on whether
Sigurdsson's charisma will suffice to reverse the party's decline
under Asgrimsson. We believe Sigurdsson will be open to cooperation
with the U.S. on modernizing security ties and strengthening trade,
but should he fail to reverse the PP's slide by the May 2007
national elections, Haarde may be forced to seek another coalition
partner - one more to the left and less open than the Progressives
to close bilateral security ties with the U.S. End summary.
Halldor Bows Out - But Not Quite Gracefully
¶2. (U) Iceland's Progressive Party (PP) held a party congress 18-19
August to elect new leadership after the Progressives' embarrassing
performance in nationwide municipal elections this May (Ref A). On
5 June, PP Chairman Halldor Asgrimsson announced his resignation as
Prime Minister and his plans to resign from his party seat upon
election of new party leadership in August (Ref B).
¶3. (SBU) Asgrimsson used his farewell speech at the congress to take
a parting shot at the U.S., describing the decision to withdraw U.S.
troops as "a breach of confidence." Asgrimsson said his former
Independence Party (IP) colleagues in the coalition had been most
guilty of having "blind faith" in the U.S. Local press coverage of
the speech was mostly matter-of-fact; only opposition-leaning
newspaper Frettabladid fronted Asgrimmson's criticism of the U.S.
Rather, most coverage - and PP rank-and-file attendees polled by
Poloff - portrayed the speech as a less than distinguished final act
to Asgrimsson's long political career.
A New Hand at the Helm, but How Much Will Change?
¶4. (SBU) In the leadership elections 19 August, Minister of Industry
and Commerce Jon Sigurdsson easily won the race for PP Chair over
Minister of Health Siv Fridleifsdottir, who as party secretary
through the May elections had shared the blame for the PP's poor
showing. Sigurdsson, an economist and Central Bank Governor before
entering politics, pledged to build unity within the party while
respecting the work of his predecessor Asgrimsson. Minister of
Agriculture Gudni Agustsson retained his post as Vice Chair in an
apparent show of support for the party's defense of agricultural
subsidies - a policy which the increasingly urbanized population
does not hold so dear.
¶5. (U) Public discussion was divided on whether Sigurdsson can
reverse the party's decline. Morgunbladid, which generally reflects
the views of PM Haarde's IP, editorialized that Sigurdsson's
election gave the PP a great chance to get back on its feet.
Conversely, Frettabladid opined that Sigurdsson's platform breaks no
new ground, and that retaining the same Vice Chair will only
solidify the party's stagnation.
¶6. (SBU) In recent statements - including to Ambassador last month
(ref C) - Sigurdsson has given little indication that he would
attempt to change his party's focus. Newly-elected PP Secretary
Saeunn Stefansdottir confirmed to Poloff after the congress that she
anticipates little change in the party's platform, but expects that
the "atmosphere within the party will be much different," in terms
of generating enthusiasm among the party faithful. The first
post-congress opinion poll on 23 August registered little change in
¶7. (SBU) It is too soon to say whether Sigurdsson's charisma will
suffice to win back voters who have abandoned the party. The PP
suffers from an image as "the party of elderly farmers" at a time
when Iceland's shifting demographics have eroded the Progressives'
traditional base. The PP has thus far failed to give urban
conservative voters a reason to choose it over the Independence
Party, which is seen as more confident and forward-looking.
¶8. (SBU) We believe that Sigurdsson will be open to close
cooperation with the U.S. on security and trade. In the short term,
Asgrimsson's departure should help the pragmatic Haarde's effort to
work with us on refocusing bilateral security cooperation from a
REYKJAVIK 00000312 002.2 OF 002
Cold War paradigm toward emerging threats such as terrorism. Yet if
Sigurdsson is unable to reverse the PP's slide, the May 2007
national elections - which Independence is likely to dominate but
without winning a clear majority - may leave Haarde no choice but to
partner with the Social Democratic Alliance or even the Left-Green
Party. Such a coalition would likely be less enthusiastic about
close bilateral security ties with the U.S., looking more toward
NATO and the EU for support.