Iceland says no

By Felix Salmon
March 6, 2010
98% no vote -- especially when it's a referendum on a bill which was passed by a democratically-elected legislature? The first reaction is that the people have obviously spoken with one voice. But then the question arises: What have they said?

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Does any referendum, ever, get a 98% no vote — especially when it’s a referendum on a bill which was passed by a democratically-elected legislature? The first reaction is that the people have obviously spoken with one voice. But then the question arises: What have they said?

It’s worth noting, here, that the bill they were voting on — that Iceland repay its $5.3 billion debt over 15 years, with 5.5% interest — is no longer the deal being offered by the UK and Holland, which have now offered a two-year interest holiday and a lower interest rate. And it’s also worth noting that the “no” vote was certainly split between people saying “no to this deal” and people saying “no to any deal”.

So maybe this is simply a sensible national negotiating tactic, giving Iceland some small amount of leverage in the run-up to a new deal being hammered out in coming weeks.

Or maybe it’s just in the national character to want to stand up to bullies.

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