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.”
The upstart Center Party and People’s Party both exceeded expectations, winning 11 percent and 7 percent of the vote, respectively, with promises to work for the average Icelander. That proved appealing at a time when many working-class people feel they’ve been left behind by the island’s tourism boom.
Iceland became a poster-child for the global financial meltdown in 2008, when its debt-laden banks collapsed. That triggered political as well as economic chaos on this North Atlantic island of 330,000 people, with around 40 percent of the sitting members of parliament losing their seats in each election since the crisis. The current government, which had been in power only a year, collapsed in September amid allegations that the prime minister’s father backed an effort to help the job prospects of a convicted pedophile.