Jón Gnarr Kristinsson has been the mayor of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, since June 2010. He won a surprise plurality of the vote, pushing the established Independence Party out of City Hall, and pushing his way into professional politics. Widely believed to have received the votes of disgruntled citizens, unhappy with the status quo after the 2008 financial crisis, Jón Gnarr and his Best Party certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, as you can see in their election broadcast:
The Best Party, however, seem to have done a seriously good job in the past two and a half years. Despite making fun of current political buzzwords, promising “sustainable transparency” in their Party Political Broadcast, and points 3 and 5 of their 10 point manifesto (which contains 13 points):
3. Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
5. Increase transparency: It’s best to have everything aboveboard so that the general public knows what is going on. We say we support that.
the Best Party have made some efforts to open up policy making and devolve decisions closer to individual citizens. Their win has been attributed to their substantial use of Better Reykjavik, a crowd-sourcing platform, although it is likely to have played a role amongst other factors. The Mayor has continued to use the platform, and it has now become an established part of municipal politics. You can also see Jón Gnarr’s considerable personal openness here, in his facebook diary.
What we think is interesting about the Best Party’s success, is its combination of constitutional openness, in which consultations play a major role, and its formal openness, in which politicians reject wholesale the idea that they know what they are doing, implicating established politicians in the pretense of knowing everything. Reading through Jón Gnarr’s diary on facebook, it is clear that he personally responds to some of his readers, and that he has a style of writing that makes him feel like a human being, something that we are not used to with politicians.
The irreverence shown by the Best Party is of course funny, but along with the concrete steps towards political openness and transparency, it seems like a fascinating step towards a new type of politics. We wonder what the relationship between the two is; can we have political openness without a personal touch? Or is one dependent on the other, for example motivating citizens to engage with politics because of the close relationship they feel with politicians?