Monday, October 23, 2017
The parliamentary elections in Iceland will take place next Saturday, the 28th of October. Our favorite thing about election time is undoubtably the free food and drinks at campaign offices.
So, we thought we’d go to all the campaign offices in Reykjavík and test what the candidates had to offer in terms of catering. We are not super psyched about the fact that we are electing a new government after our three-party coalition of the Independence Party, Bright Future and Reform crashed, in the wake of yet another scandal. But we are always pumped to receive complimentary food to fill our tummies in the days leading up to election time.
Election time is good for the budget
If you are traveling Iceland on a budget, we highly recommend you visit any or all of the campaign offices. It’s not just about the free food. It can also be quite educational to talk to the candidates and hear their view on politics in Iceland and how Iceland stands on a global scale. And you, my dear travelers, are part of one of the biggest issues being debated for this year’s parliamentary elections – the travel industry in Iceland. Should the VAT on companies in the travel industry be raised? Should the government charge people a small fee for entering the country? Should entrance be sold at Iceland’s most popular natural attractions? These are examples of the questions people and politicians are debating about and could have a massive effect on the travel industry in Iceland. But enough about that, let’s talk about food.
Arrogance at Dawn
I decided to visit all the campaign offices in the capital area, both to critique the catering and to observe the people and the atmosphere at each campaign office. Many people don’t like to talk politics, but I’ve discovered that it can be thoroughly amusing and informative to get to know each party during election time.
There are 11 parties running in the parliamentary elections this year. I visited all the offices except two. I did not visit Dawn, with the list letter T, simply because they are not running in the capital region. And frankly, when I contacted the party via their Facebook page, their response was a bit too arrogant for my taste. I simply asked if they had an open campaign office in Reykjavík and they swiftly answered as if I should be well aware that they are not running in Reykjavík. So they basically decided to put me down instead of being polite. It almost makes me want to move to another part of the country, say Reykjanes peninsula, so I can actively not vote for Dawn.
The other party I didn’t visit was the People’s Front of Iceland, a far-left party with the list letter R. The reason? They don’t have a campaign office.
That left me with 9 parties to inspect, and boy did I have a great time doing it! It was a day filled with waffles and coffee and here is my conclusion, if you want to save a few ISK and have meaningful conversations about the state of the world.
Left-Green Movement, a left-wing party – list letter V
Campaign office location: Þingholtsstræti 27, 101 Reykjavík
The first campaign office I visited was the Left-Green Movement’s one, or Vinstrihreyfingin – grænt framboð as the party is called in Icelandic. Their catering was very traditional – waffles with whipped cream and jam, coffee, fruit and assorted candy. However, I must say that their waffles were the best I got during my whole campaign office tour. They were perfect, as a matter of fact. Fluffy, yet crispy. Loaded with vanilla flavor and perfectly made. The Left-Green Movement get top marks for those glorious waffles. The coffee was good – not great, and the fruit was fresh and delicious. The one thing I missed were more homemade delicacies, besides from the waffles. They had a great selection of toys for my kids to play with and I managed to have some meaningful discussions with the candidates.
Conclusion: The Left-Green Movements get the prize for best waffles but could make a more mean cup of coffee.
Must See’s Score: 8/10
The Centre Party, a centre/centre-right party – list letter M
Campaign office location: The JL house, Hringbraut 119, 101 Reykjavík
Next up was the newly formed Centre Party, or Miðflokkurinn, headed by one of Iceland’s most controversial politicians, former prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. He’s one of the people in the Panama papers and resigned as prime minister because of that last year. Entering his campaign office was a surreal experience. The people working at the office have so much faith in their leader that it sort of feels like he’s a Jesus-like figure. All the people at the office, excluding yours truly, were middle aged and the atmosphere was not exactly joyous. They had no entertainment for the kids, except a big bowl of M&Ms, making sure my little ones were stuck in 5th gear throughout the day. However, their coffee was excellent and even though the catering was quite old fashioned, they offered a homemade tuna fish salad to die for! Seriously, I’ve been thinking about that salad non stop since I visited the office. I appreciate homemade goods at campaign offices and that tuna salad really won my heart.
Conclusion: I would walk 500 miles and 500 more for that tuna salad!
Must See’s Score: 7/10
The Social Democratic Alliance, a centre-left party – list letter S
Campaign office location: Suðurgata 10, 101 Reykjavík
Samfylkingin, or the Social Democratic Alliance, was my next stop. The campaign office was extremely crowded when I got there, making it hard for me to visit with my whole family. There were homemade waffles with jam and whipped cream on offer – a fairly typical campaign stable. The waffles were far from perfect and I got the feeling that they were in fact not homemade, but made with some sort of waffle mix. I could be wrong, but I felt they lacked some love and passion. The coffee was quite watered down and could do with some punch. The atmosphere was a bit strange and I didn’t get the feeling any of the candidates wanted to talk to me, a voter who still hasn’t made up his mind. I therefore just gobbled up my waffle and headed to my next destination.
Conclusion: Lacking heart and soul, both in catering and atmosphere.
Must See’s Score: 3/10
The Progressive Party, a centre-right party – list letter B
Campaign office location: Hverfisgata 33, 101 Reykjavík
Which brings me to the party that has made the campaign waffle an icon for election time. I’m talking about Framsókn, or the Progressive Party. They are so damn proud of their waffles that they make a point of featuring them in some of their online ads. You can therefore understand my excitement to finally taste the notorious waffles at one of Framsókn’s waffle gatherings, happening every Friday until the election. I must say that I understand why the waffles are such a big thing. They are excellent. Not as good as the one’s I got at the Left-Green Movement, but a close second. However, the atmosphere at Framsókn is quite dull. Bunch of middle aged men talking about fisheries and farming. Not really my cup of tea, even though the coffee was extremely well brewed.
Conclusion: The iconic waffle didn’t disappoint.
Must See’s Score: 6/10
Bright Future, a centre party – list letter A
Campaign office location: Njálsgata 22, 101 Reykjavík
From there on I visited Björt Framtíð, Bright Future, the party that tore up the three-party coalition. Finally, a really, really, really good cup of coffee. And a selection of homemade goods – something that I really appreciate. When I visited the campaign office, they also had some vegan snacks, so they could cater to a broader crowd and I thought that was an excellent twist on the other wise old fashioned catering traditions of their opponents. I was missing some entertainment for my kids but all in all I thought the atmosphere at Bright Future was cozy and relaxing – a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of every day life.
Conclusion: Great cup of coffee and cozy atmosphere.
Must See’s Score: 8/10
Reform, a centre/centre-right party – list letter C
Campaign office location: Ármúli 42, 108 Reykjavík
My roll of excellent coffee certainly continued at Reform’s campaign office, or Viðreisn in Icelandic. Hands down, Reform makes the best cup of coffee. It’s perfectly brewed and strong enough to suit my taste buds. Their catering was the traditional kind of store bought pastries and bread which was ok. But what I appreciated most about visiting Reform were the people. Each and every one of the candidates were eager to talk to me and other guests at the campaign office and I really felt my opinion mattered. The location of the campaign office is quite unappealing, with the entrance being hard to find, so I would have given them a better score if that would’ve been better.
Conclusion: The best cup of coffee out of all the campaign offices.
Must See’s Score: 7/10
The Independence Party, a centre-right/right-wing party – list letter D
Campaign office location: Háaleitisbraut 1, 105 Reykjavík
It should come as no surprise for Icelanders that it was quite evident at the campaign office for Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn, the Independence Party, that it’s the party with the most money. We’re talking about a special cinema room for kids, with all sorts of entertainment on offer like face painting, magician, coloring books and what not. So, the kids are thoroughly entertained while the grown ups can enjoy coffee, cake, pastries and bread – all store bought. The party has cups and dishes adorned with its logo, and offer free pens, pins and balloons for those interested in supporting it’s views. However, I was missing the heart of this controversial party. Not one candidate approached me to see if there was a chance to swing my vote. There was no sense of joy or excitement at the office. And the coffee – my, oh, my! The worst one out of all the offices. They should really think about firing the person on the coffee!
Conclusion: As I expected, the Independence Party has the most money but smallest heart.
Must See’s Score: 5/10
The People’s Party, a left, populist party – list letter F
Campaign office location: Hamraborg 10, 200 Kópavogur
The People’s Party, or Flokkur fólksins, is one of the newer parties, giving room for new views and new people in Icelandic politics. Therefore I was so disappointed when I walked into the parties’ campaign office. Dull atmosphere, boring waffles and horrible coffee. Nothing about the office said new and exciting to me, and none of the candidates bothered to sit down and have a conversation about politics. The office is small and cramped and the only thing making my kids not go crazy was a worn out old couch they could jump around on. I felt really frustrated leaving the office and I’m pretty sure those waffles gave me stomach cramps.
Conclusion: I expected something new and exciting but was received with horrible coffee and stomach cramps.
Must See’s Score: 1/10
The Pirate Party, a syncretic party – list letter P
Campaign office location: Síðumúli 23, 108 Reykjavík
I was also expecting some excitement at my last stop at the Pirate Party’s campaign office. Píratar, as they are called in Icelandic, have breathed new life into Icelandic politics the last years and are a group of outspoken individuals, with policies not seen before in Icelandic politics. They did not disappoint, providing me with really meaningful discussion about everything from entrepreneurs to environmental issues. I could’ve stayed at their office all day chatting, even though the catering was not extravagant at all – simply some bread and butter and a really good cup of coffee. In addition to that, they had some video games and a foosball table, making sure my kids had plenty of do while I solved all the problems of the world.
Conclusion: A really inviting campaign office with candidates willing to converse about anything and everything. Oh, and good coffee.
Must See’s Score: 8/10
It’s only a few days until election time and I still haven’t made up my mind. But at least I know where to turn to if I need good coffee or excellent conversation. I hope this piece has been a little helpful and I hope you enjoy the parliamentary election time if you’re in Iceland.