A Letter of Encouragement for Voters of Foreign Origin.

Nichole Leigh Mosty skrifar

I decided to pen an op-ed in English to bridge words of encouragement to voters of foreign origin who maybe are not included in election discourse, due to language. I realize many of us learning Icelandic of a second language are often left out or only partially included. I also realize a great many of us don’t speak English or have learned English to bridge between Icelandic and our mother tongues, and I apologize for not being able to bridge to you as well. To those of you who speak Icelandic do not be offended, the first steps of including people works when we build bridges and supporting them over the bridge.

Democracy is a wonderful thing isn‘t it? Most definitions of democracy refer to it is a system of government in which state power is vested in the people or the general population of a state. According to the United Nations, democracy provides an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in which the freely expressed will of people is exercised.

In Iceland we have a representative democracy, and right now WE THE PEOPLE are going to choose a new President Saturday the 1st of June.

So, who are considered „the people" and how does this democracy relate to us, other than to have people reaching out to us to solicit our votes? Features of democracy here in Iceland are our right to the freedom of assembly, association, personal property, freedom of religion and speech, citizenship, consent of the governed, voting rights, freedom from unwarranted governmental deprivation of the right to life and liberty, and minority rights. Features the candidate I support, values and has promised to uphold.

I like many foreign-born citizens am fortunate to have dual citizenship meaning I have the right to participate in the democratic process in my home country, and my home away from home country, Iceland. We are fortunate to have so many good candidates to choose from in this election, many we can be very proud of. I don’t feel I need to use my vote Saturday June 1st to vote against anyone, but rather for someone who I believe has values that align with mine. Someone who I feel will serve us with integrity, and wisdom. Someone with knowledge of the role of the Presidential office here in Iceland, which is quite different than the role for example, of the President in my home country. A person who I honestly believe has met and conquered challenges similar to those many of us who are of foreign origin, have faced as a marginalized citizens here in Iceland.

I have been volunteering my time behind the scenes to help Baldur Þórhallsson and the people running his campaign, allowing me truly understand the genuine opportunity before us. Baldur presents us with the opportunity to firstly elect a candidate who is highly qualified for the role, and a man who represents values that I believe we can all be proud of.

These past few days I have given my time to call people, specifically of foreign origin, to have a conversation firstly about participating in the process, through exercising our right to vote. (Information about voting in these elections can be found here) Participation in Icelandic society is something we determine for ourselves, utilizing the opportunities we have for participation such as taking part in the democratic process, is an important way to lift our voices. Voting is not only our right as residents and as citizens, but something we can benefit from. Voting for a candidate to be our voice is important and more importantly electing a candidate who will listen to and respect our voices, is critical.

Through this op-ed I would like to use the opportunity we all have through participation in political discourse, to support the election of Baldur Þórhallsson as our next President. In my conversations with many of you I have heard and understand how you feel about life in Iceland and the future you hope to see here in Iceland for us and our children. A view of the future I honestly believe Baldur shares with us.

I put my faith in Baldur Þórhallsson because:

He is extremely qualified. Baldur is a respected expert regarding Iceland's foreign policy. For decades he is the man our nation has often looked to when the need to analyze what is going politically Iceland and globally arises, and he does so without bias to any particular political party or beliefs. He is a recognized scholar who has received numerous awards for his work, written academic articles and published numerous books that have been published in several countries.

Baldur much like myself, is not afraid to share his opinion, and he doesn’t “fluff” his answers to appease or avoid answering tough questions. In my opinion he carries himself with integrity and respect for others. I value this in people and especially leaders. I have watched him for years and it is my heartfelt belief that he does not fall under the power of politicians or people with financial power or influence.

Baldur has developed a genuine understanding for and fought for human rights his entire life. He knows what it's like to be a marginalized person, not only because of his sexuality, (Baldur is openly homosexual and married to Felix Bergsson) but his beloved brother had severe disabilities growing up in rural Iceland. He was chairman of the Equality Committee at the University of Iceland, Chairman of the Board of the Icelandic Human Rights Office and founded the Organization of Queer students. He doesn’t just say he believes in human rights from a platform of privilege he has put himself all in for the basic human right to live with dignity regardless of your situation, background or beliefs. He has promised to use the office of President to continue to do so and lift up the voices faced with inequality, raising awareness and creating cohesion in our diverse society.

In a world where we experience growing divide and discrimination, where men and women are discriminated against for their backgrounds and beliefs instead of for their qualifications, values, and knowledge. I choose Baldur, he is more than qualified for the role and responsibility. Baldur is a man who has put equality, human rights and dignity of individuals above all.

I encourage firstly everyone with the right to vote to utilize your right. To those of you who have not yet achieved that right here, to at a very minimum take part in the political discourse learn about the candidates and let it be known who you would like to represent you, because you live here too and that person will be your President as well. He or she will represent your interests.

Author is a voter of foreign origin.


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