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.”
Articles about voting issues in Iceland.
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 month after 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.