Iceland’s ruling Independence Party took the largest share of the vote in the island nation’s parliamentary election but faces difficult negotiations to form a new government after populist candidates showed unexpected strength. A record eight parties won seats in Saturday’s vote as the 2008 global financial crisis continues to roil the island’s politics. Despite topping the poll, the Independence Party saw its support dip to 25 percent. The three-party governing coalition lost a total of 12 seats, leaving it 11 seats shy of a majority in parliament, known as the Althingi. The opposition Left Green Movement finished second with 17 percent, despite predictions it could win the election. “Everyone lost,” said political analyst Gunnar Smari Egilsson said. “The current opposition gained no seats while the ruling coalition lost 12 seats. Populists alone triumphed.”
Iceland’s ruling centre-right parties have lost their majority after a tight election that could usher in only the second left-of-centre government in the country’s history as an independent nation. With all votes counted after the Nordic island’s second snap poll in a year, the conservative Independence party of the scandal-plagued outgoing prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, was on course to remain parliament’s largest. But it lost five of of its 21 seats in the 63-member Althing, potentially paving the way for its main opponent, the Left-Green Movement headed by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to form a left-leaning coalition with three or more other parties. The make-up of the new government, however, remains uncertain since both left- and rightwing blocs have said they deserve a chance to try to form a coalition and Iceland’s president has yet to designate a party to begin talks.
Iceland heads into its second snap parliamentary election in less than a year on Saturday with the financial crash that brought the country to its knees nearly a decade ago still playing out in its politics. The island’s economy is thriving again, thanks mainly to an unprecedented tourism boom, but some of its top politicians have been hit by a succession of financial and ethical scandals that have badly dented voters’ trust. The prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, called the election last monthafter his three-party government collapsed over an alleged attempt to cover up efforts by his father to help “restore the honour” of a convicted child sex offender. Benediktsson formed his centre-right coalition barely 10 months ago, following early elections triggered by his predecessor’s resignation. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had stepped down amid public fury at revelations in the Panama Papers that his family had sheltered money offshore.
Iceland on Saturday holds its second snap election in just a year after a slew of scandals ensnaring its politicians in a nation whose economy is thriving thanks to tourism. Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson of the conservative Independence Party called the vote last month after a junior member of the three-party centre-right coalition quit the government over a legal scandal involving the prime minister’s father. Saturday’s vote will be the fourth time Iceland has held legislative elections since its 2008 financial crisis, when its three major banks collapsed and the country teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. With the emergence of several anti-establishment parties, Iceland’s political landscape is splintered, with at least eight parties vying for the 63 seats in the single-chamber parliament.
Iceland: Prime Minister calls snap election after coalition party quits over ‘breach of trust’ | Reuters
Iceland’s prime minister called for a snap parliamentary election on Friday after one party in the ruling coalition quit the government formed less than nine months ago. The outgoing party, Bright Future, cited a “breach of trust” after Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s party allegedly tried to cover up a scandal involving his father. That leaves the country, whose economy was wrecked by the collapse of its banking system nearly a decade ago, facing its second snap election in less than a year. The outgoing government would be the shortest-living in Iceland’s history. The previous government was felled by the Panama Papers scandal over offshore tax havens.
Iceland’s incumbent Independence party was in pole position to try to form a new government after voters chose continuity in Saturday’s elections and support for the anti-establishment Pirate party, while sharply up, fell below early expectations. The Pirates, founded four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists and former hackers, tripled their share of the vote to 14.5%, and together with an alliance of three left-of-centre parties won a total of 27 seats – five short of a majority in the country’s 63-seat parliament. The centre-right Independence party, however, won almost 30% of the vote and a total of 29 seats with its coalition partner of the past three years, the Progressive party, which was badly hit by this year’s Panama papers scandal and lost more than half its MPs. In a campaign whose early stages were dominated by public anger at Iceland’s traditional elites and a strong desire for political change, the Independence party promised to lower taxes and keep Iceland’s economic recovery on track.
Iceland looked likely to steer away from a Pirate takeover Sunday, as voters favored the incumbent Independence Party over the upstart band of buccaneers advocating direct democracy and Internet freedom. With roughly half of the votes counted from Saturday’s election, the Independence Party had about 30 percent of the ballots and the Pirate Party about 14 percent, putting them in third place behind the Left-Green movement. It’s a worse result for the Pirates than some polls suggested, and a better performance than predicted for the Independents, who have governed in coalition since 2013. Coalition governments are the norm in Iceland’s multiparty system. It was not immediately clear whether the Independents would be able to assemble a coalition with other centrist and right-wing parties — or whether the Pirates and other opposition forces would get the numbers to govern.
Initial counting after polls closed in Iceland’s election put neither the ruling Independence party’s centre-right coalition nor the Pirate party’s leftist alliance in a position to secure outright victory. With roughly one-third of votes counted, support for the mainstream centre-right coalition – particularly Independence – stood at more than 40%, translating to 27 MPs in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament. The opposition alliance had around 43%, giving 29 MPs. That could leave the newly-established Viðreisn – meaning Regeneration – party in the role of kingmaker. Its share of the vote sat at around 11% in early counting. Its liberal, pro-European stance has proved popular among conservative voters seeking a change from the old parties. “We want to improve things in Iceland,” the party leader, Benedikt Johannesson, said as he cast his ballot. “We are a free trade party, a pro-western party, an open society party.” Polls published on Friday before the election showed the governing coalition of the Independence and Progressive parties on about 37% of the vote, while support for opposition parties led by the Pirates – founded barely four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists and former hackers – stood at 47%.
A party that favours direct democracy, complete government transparency, decriminalising drugs and offering asylum to Edward Snowden could form the next government in Iceland after the country goes to the polls on Saturday. Riding a wave of public anger at perceived political corruption in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the Panama Papers scandal in April, Iceland’s Pirate party looks on course to either win or finish a close second. The radical party, founded by activists and hackers four years ago as part of an international anti-copyright movement, captured 5% of the vote in 2013 elections, winning three seats in Iceland’s 63-member parliament, the Althingi. This time around, analysts say it could win between 18 and 20 seats. This would put it in pole position to form a government at the head of a broad progressive alliance of up to five parties currently in opposition.
Investors drawn to Iceland’s high yields following the partial dismantling of capital controls are facing parliamentary elections that could produce a toxic mix of political turmoil and radicalism. Klaus Spoeri, a fund manager at Frankfurt-Trust, says that while he recently bought more Icelandic bonds because of their attractive yields of more than 5 percent, he’s now holding off. “We’re quite confident about Iceland and the turnaround,” Spoeri said. But if Saturday’s elections should “go wrong, we’ll liquidate the position.” Despite an impressive turnaround in the economy, latest surveys suggest the ruling conservative coalition of the Independence and Progressive parties stands little chance of surviving the election. An untested alliance of opposition parties has set its sights on the leverages of power. The alliance is spearheaded by the Pirate Party, a direct-democracy movement that’s been leading the polls by riding a global wave of resentment toward the establishment.
Iceland’s national elections take place on Saturday, and at present, a radical fringe party could be heading for the win. One in five Icelanders favor the Pirate Party, according to an online opinion poll run by the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Iceland, the Iceland Monitor reports. The results of the poll put the Pirates in the lead with 22.6%, ahead of the incumbent center-right Independence party by one and a half points. From its beginnings in the radical margins four years ago, to its position at the center point — and counterpoint — of mainstream Icelandic politics today, the rise of Iceland’s Pirate Party has been short and sharp.
Icelanders are casting apprehensive looks at two volcanoes this fall – a real one on the southern coast named Katla, and a metaphorical one also known as Althing or parliament in the capital – each of which has been rumbling ominously. The difference is that while Icelanders are unsure if and when Katla will blow, they know the exact date, Oct. 29, when the latter will erupt. That is the date of the next election for the 63-seat parliament. Although the election itself promises to be an orderly affair, the outcome does not, especially if the insurgent Pirate party, which is channeling the imminent explosion, has its way. For while Pirate parties are not unusual – such political groups started appearing in 2005, focused on digital rights and Internet-reliant democracy, and now exist in countries around the world – this once conservative Nordic nation is set to be the first to vote such a party into power. The Icelandic Pirate Party looks to garner just under a quarter of the vote, according to the latest Gallup poll, which would make them one of the two largest parties in the new parliament.
Iceland has elected a university historian as its president, amid public dissatisfaction with political elites that was first sparked by the country’s banking collapse six years ago. Gudni Johannesson, who had been the frontrunner in the lead-up to the vote, was confirmed on Sunday as the winner of the presidential elections. He secured 39.1 per cent of the vote, ahead of Halla Tomasdottir, a private equity executive, on 27.9 per cent. Iceland’s banking collapse in 2008 led to a plunge in trust in politicians — a mood that further deepened this spring, when the country’s prime minister resigned following revelations that he and his wife had owned an offshore company, according to the so-called Panama Papers. Mr Johannesson, who is not affiliated to any of Iceland’s political parties, on Sunday promised to bring stability and a new leadership style to the small Nordic island. He said he would be a less political president than his predecessor Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who had ruled for 20 years and caused several controversies by vetoing parliament, especially over the Icesave legal dispute with the UK and Netherlands.
Iceland’s president has refused a request from the country’s embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, to dissolve parliament and call snap elections until he has had time to consult all of the country’s political parties. As the island’s political crisis deepened on Tuesday, its president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, flew back early from a US visit to sound out party representatives in parliament, where the leftwing opposition has presented a motion of no confidence in Gunnlaugsson’s centre-right coalition government. Further mass protests were planned in Reykjavik for later on Tuesday as pressure mounted on the prime minister to resign following revelations in the leaked Panama Papers that his wife owned a secretive offshore investment company with multi-million pound claims on Iceland’s failed banks.
Iceland’s government named a new prime minister and called for early elections in the autumn on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson quit to become the first global politician brought down by the “Panama Papers” leaks. It was unclear whether the naming of Fisheries Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson to head the government or the call for early elections would satisfy the thousands of Icelanders who in street protests this week demanded the government resign immediately for early elections. Gunnlaugsson quit as prime minister on Tuesday after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed his wife owned an offshore company that held millions of dollars in debt from failed Icelandic banks. The government said the decision to hold elections in autumn would give it time to follow through on one of the biggest economic policy changes in decades – the ending of capital controls introduced to rescue the economy from the 2008 financial crisis.
Iceland’s prime minister is this week expected to face calls in parliament for a snap election after the Panama Papers revealed he is among several leading politicians around the world with links to secretive companies in offshore tax havens. The financial affairs of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and his wife have come under scrutiny because of details revealed in documents from a Panamanian law firm that helps clients protect their wealth in secretive offshore tax regimes. The files from Mossack Fonseca form the biggest ever data leak to journalists. Opposition leaders have this weekend been discussing a motion calling for a general election – in effect a confidence vote in the prime minister. On Monday, Gunnlaugsson is expected to face allegations from opponents that he has hidden a major financial conflict of interest from voters ever since he was elected an MP seven years ago.
Alþingishúsið, The Parliament House, is a hulking grey stone building that sits on the edge of the sleepy Austurvöllur square in downtown Reykjavík. It’s the seat of Iceland’s Alþingi, an institution that was famously inaugurated in the year 930 by a coalition of chieftains who, in essence, founded the world’s first parliament, and began governing over what many claim to be the world’s oldest functioning democracy. One or two things have changed in Icelandic politics during the intervening millennium. For example, people no longer gather annually around Lögberg, the Law Rock, at Þingvellir national park, to hear the new laws of the land being read out. Blasphemy is now legal (thank fucking god). And you can’t kill Basque sailors on sight in the Westfjords these days. After more than a thousand years, though, democracy remains quite popular with the Icelanders, with around 80% of Icelanders voting in general elections.
In 2007, Halldór Auðar Svansson, 27, was working as a programmer in one of the main Icelandic banks, Kaupthing Bank. As a young professional, he was seduced by Kaupthing’s stated ambition to become one of the world’s top ten banks. Seven years later, Kaupthing Bank has collapsed and Svansson is the first Pirate to sit in a majority coalition, in the Icelandic capital city Reykjavik. I met him a few weeks after he took office. Among the consequences of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, two were particularly instrumental in Halldor’s decision to get involved in politics. The first one started with a joke. In 2010, the Best Party (a “joke party”) and its self-declared “anarcho-surrealist” leader, Jón Gnarr, won the Reykjavik municipality, a key position in the country’s political life. For Svansson, “2008 movements did actually change the way politics was done. The Best Party was a direct response to how people were disillusioned with the political system. It was a ‘parodic rebellion’, which turned out to be probably the best thing that could have happened to Reykjavik at that point.”
Not content with serving as a catalyst for the global financial crisis, Iceland has elected three members of the Pirate Party to its national Parliament. Iceland’s Alþingi (“Althing” in English) is a single-chambered parliament that has met since the tenth century and says it is the world’s oldest such legislature. The nation is divided into six constituencies, each of which elects nine representatives. Constituencies with larger populations also have one or two “levelling seats” to ensure the value of a vote remains constant across the nation. Proportional representation is used to elect candidates.
When Iceland decided it needed a new constitution, it took the novel approach of giving all of Iceland’s people a say. Alas, that constitution is now dead—or at the very least in a long, deep coma. The rise and fall of the world’s first crowd-sourced constitution begins in the wake Iceland’s 2008 bankruptcy, when its government decided that a new constitution was in order. (The old one is based on Denmark’s and the two countries share a somewhat tortured relationship.) And who would write it? The good people of Iceland, the government decided, as it faced widespread protests about the way the financial crisis was handled. This effort saw 950 Icelanders chosen by lottery to offer their thoughts on how the process should work. An elected constitutional council then solicited feedback from citizens through social media. The council published a draft based on this feedback.
Iceland’s serving President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson looks set for a record fifth term in office, partial results from the country’s election suggest. With 20% of the votes counted, Mr Grimsson secured more than 50% support. Main challenger Thora Arnorsdottir, a journalist who gave birth during the campaign, acknowledged defeat.
As Icelanders go to the polls on Saturday to decide on their next president, the sitting candidate faces a challenge from an unlikely contender – a 37-year-old mother of three, with a newborn baby. The baby is called Sky, which means “cloud”. It’s only a nick-name, a stop-gap sobriquet because her parents have many other things to think about before they decide what to call their new child. “It’s just until her mother has time to choose one,” says the baby’s father, Svavar Halldorsson. Admittedly it’s not unusual for babies to be nameless for up to six months in Iceland. What’s different in this case, is that Sky’s mother is too busy to decide on a name because she’s running for president.
The workers at the Marel factory are filling up their lunch trays with salads, sausages and pickled fish when the presidential candidate arrives, spouse and new baby in tow. The canteen has seen several such visits from some of the six hopefuls in the running for Iceland’s election on Sunday. Today’s guest is the frontrunner to unseat President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, 69, who has been in office for a record 16 years. Aged 37, and with a successful career as a broadcast journalist, Thora Arnorsdottir entered the race in March. She was then seven months pregnant. But she has led the polls ever since, even after taking weeks out of campaigning to give birth to her third child with partner Svavar Halldorsson, who now carries the baby at the back of the Marel canteen.