Thursday, October 28, 2021

Iceland government ready to win majority, but future uncertain

Iceland’s government was set to win a majority in Saturday’s election, early results show, although it remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s left-right coalition will agree to continue in power simultaneously.

The three-party coalition has brought Iceland four years of stability after a decade of crisis.

Jacobsdottir’s Left-Green Movement, the Conservative Independence Party and the centre-right Progressive Party were credited with 38 of the 63 seats in parliament, with more than a third of the vote counted.

But the Left-Green Movement was seen losing significant ground to its right-wing allies, leaving Jacobsdottir’s future as prime minister – and the coalition itself – in doubt.

“We have to see how the government parties are working together and how we are doing,” Jacobsdottir told AFP. Preliminary results show that his party lost one of the 11 seats it won in 2017.

However, a clear picture of the political scenario was expected to emerge only after Sunday when all the votes were counted.

A record nine parties are expected to win in Althing, Iceland’s nearly 1,100-year-old parliament, shattering the political landscape more than ever before.

This makes it particularly difficult to predict which parties may eventually form a coalition.

“I know the consequences will be complicated, it will be complicated to form a new government,” Jacobsdottir said.

The single largest party seemed set to remain the Independence Party, with leader Bjarni Benediktson eyeing the prime minister’s post.

She was seen resting on her 16 seats.

But the big winner of the election appeared to be the centre-right Progressive Party, which was seen leading in four seats to 12.

‘Various occasions’

“Since there are so many parties, I think there will be many different opportunities to form a government,” Jacobsdottir told AFP earlier this week.

During his four-year tenure, Jacobsdottir has introduced a progressive income tax system, increased the social housing budget and increased parental leave for both parents.

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Widely popular, he has also been hailed for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused just 33 deaths in the country of 370,000.

But they have also had to make concessions to maintain peace in their alliance.

She said on Saturday that if she returns to power, her party will focus on the “big challenges we face to build the economy in a more green and sustainable way”, as well as addressing the climate crisis where “we need to be radicalised”. Things need to be done.”

It is only the second time since 2008 that a government has made it to the vast island until the end of its four-year mandate.

Deep public mistrust of politicians amid repeated scandals sent Icelanders to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.

‘free for all’

Outgoing Finance Minister Benedictson is a former prime minister who comes from a family that has long held authority.

He has survived several political scandals, including his involvement in the 2016 Panama Papers leak, which exposed an offshore tax haven, and is standing in his fifth election.

He said he is optimistic after the initial results.

“These numbers are good, (it’s) a good start to the evening,” he told public broadcaster RUV.

But five other parties that are expected to get around 10-15% of the vote can come together to form various alliances.

They are the Left-Green Movement, the Progressive Party, the Social Democratic Alliance, the Libertarian Pirate Party, and the centre-right Reform Party. A new Socialist Party is also expected to make a strong showing.

“There is no clear alternative to this government. If it falls and they cannot continue, it is just a free-for-all to form a new coalition,” said political scientist Erikur Bergman.

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