"Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. There is a phrase in Icelandic, ‘ad ganga med bok I maganum’, everyone gives birth to a book… One in 10 Icelanders will publish one.”
Iceland may have a population of only 320,000, but as a showcase for radical democratic reform it is undoubtedly the country to watch in 2013. In April it will hold parliamentary elections, and a entirely new party is hoping to make an impact. Reykjavik mayor Jón Gnarr – formerly a stand-up comedian – has confirmed that he will stand for Bright Future, a new party that has grown out of the Best party, which stormed to victory in the municipal elections in 2010. Its comical campaign video – to the tune of Tina Turner’s Simply the Best – promised a polar bear for Reykjavik zoo and free towels in all public swimming pools, and attracted many protest votes in the wake of Iceland’s financial crash. But since taking power the party has taken difficult decisions and won plaudits for its “new politics”, which includes deciding policy through online debates and communicating with residents via Facebook.
Now several members have formed Bright Future and hope they can revive an interest in national politics in a similar way. On his own Facebook page Gnarr recently wrote: “I think Iceland could be the perfect laboratory for the future of democracy, direct democracy, participatory budgeting and other ideas.” Or, as he promised in 2010, he may just want to ensure “a drug free parliament by 2020”.
World News in 2013: the stories to watch for | Guardian