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Iceland Mag

Politics

Election fraud in Westfjords? Suspicious population increase in lead-up to local elections

By Staff

  • Abandoned herring factory The herring factory in Ingólfsfjörður is one of the many fascinating sights in the Strandir region. Phto/Sara

A sudden 39% population increase in one of the most remote and sparsely populated municipalities in Iceland has raised concern of election fraud. The number of people who have registered as residents of Árneshreppur municipality jumped from 44 to 63 between April 24 and May 4, the local news site Vísir reports. The sudden population spike is all the more interesting as the number of residents in the remote region has been dropping steadily over the past decades.

Wilderness protection vs Electricity and job creation 
The largest issue at stake in the municipal elections in Árneshreppur, which is a sparsely populated area on the northern shore of the Westfjords peninsula, is the building of a controversial hydro electric plant in a remote fjord. Conservationists have argued that the dam will damage a priceless wilderness area and destroy unique waterfalls. Some locals, including landowners who have a direct stake in the project, have described the dam as a boon to the community, creating jobs. 

Read more: See the breathtaking hidden waterfalls of the remote Strandir region in beautiful video

Conservationists have proposed a wilderness park where the dam is to be built, arguing that the dam will be fully automatic and therefore bring no jobs to the area, while a wilderness park could become a tourist magnet.

The population increase in the municipality is believed to be connected to efforts by the two sides to gain a majority on the municipal council. Árneshreppur municipality has argued that the suspicious population increase is a clear attempt to subvert the principles of democracy and free elections. 

Read more: Conservationists reject plans for hydropower plants in untouched Westfjords wilderness

The National Broadcasting Service reports that the National Registry will investigate the matter, which has also been referred to the Ministry of the Interior. According to Icelandic law election fraud or attempts to undermine elections is punishable by up to two years in prison.

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