Icelanders are voting in a referendum on whether or not to pay back British and Dutch investors who lost billions of euros in the Icelandic banking collapse.
The prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir urged voters to approve the repayments but surveys showed that was not a foregone conclusion.
‘I believe it’s important the answer is a clear “yes”,’ the premier said, ‘but it is difficult with issues like this if the result is close. So I’m hoping for a resounding “yes” but we’ll face whatever comes.’
A ‘yes’ vote could have a devastating impact on a country as small as Iceland but could please the financial markets. A ‘no’ vote would be damaging in another way, ostracising the island financially in a year that its IMF bailout expires.
One voter in Reykjavik, Helgi Sigurdsson said: ‘I think there are probably a lot of people undetermined when they went to the polling stations. Probably a lot of people stood for a long time holding the ballot slip.’
Another, Gretar Viesteyston said that it is a no-win situation. ‘It doesn’t matter if it goes yes or no. It’s going to change everything. We don’t know what’s going to happen if we say no. But we know, in a way, what’s going to happen if we say yes. So I said yes.’
There is still anger among many Icelanders that they are being asked to pick up the tab for the excesses of those who drove the banking system into the ground.
A ‘yes’ vote would mean the population paying for the next 35 years to clear the debt.