Icelandic government on the verge of winning majority, but future uncertain | Elections News
The Icelandic government was on the verge of winning a clear majority in Saturday’s election, partial results showed, although it remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s left-right coalition would agree to stay in power together.
The tripartite coalition brought Iceland four years of stability after a decade of crises.
With more than a third of the votes counted, Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green Movement, the Conservative Independence Party and the Center-Right Progressive Party were together credited with 41 of the 63 seats in Parliament, compared to 33 seats that they previously held.
But the Left-Green Movement has lost ground to its right-wing partners, questioning Jakobsdottir’s future as prime minister – and the coalition itself.
“We will have to see how the government parties go together and how we go,” Jakobsdottir told AFP news agency, as partial results showed his party was losing one seat in parliament out of the 11 it won in 2017.
A clear picture of the political landscape, however, was not to emerge until later Sunday, when all the votes had been counted.
A total of eight parties are expected to win seats in the Althing, Iceland’s nearly 1,100-year-old parliament.
The fragmented political landscape makes it difficult to predict which parties might ultimately form a coalition.
“I know the results will be complicated, it will be difficult to form a new government,” said Jakobsdottir.
The biggest party looked set to remain the Independence Party, whose leader Bjarni Benediktsson – the current finance minister and former prime minister – is considering Jakobsdottir’s post.
He was seen winning two seats, at 18.
“These numbers are good, (it’s a) good start to the evening,” he told public broadcaster RUV.
But the big winner in the election appeared to be the center-right Progressive Party, which won five seats, against 13.
Coalition to hold talks
If the partial results are confirmed, the Progressives would become Iceland’s second party, ousting the Left-Green Movement.
Party leader Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson declined to say whether he would consider forming a bipartisan minority coalition government with the Independence Party.
“I will wait to comment on possible government cooperation until we have clearer results,” he told public broadcaster RUV.
Eva Onnudottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, told AFP that there was “a possibility” that the current tripartite government might decide to continue together.
“All the leaders of the three government parties said they would speak to each other naturally if they retained a majority after the election.”
However, the only reason the three seem to want to retain their majority is the strong performance of the right, while the left has lost support.
“What are the Left-Greens going to do with this?” We’ll see, “she said.
With eight parties expected to be represented in parliament, there are plenty of coalition options for which parties to seek out.
â€œHuge challengesâ€ ahead
During his four-year tenure, Jakobsdottir introduced a progressive income tax system, increased the social housing budget and extended parental leave for both parents.
Widely popular, she has also been praised for her handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with just 33 deaths in the country of 370,000 people.
But she also had to make concessions to keep the peace in her coalition, which could have cost her dearly at the polls.
She said on Saturday that if he returned to power her party would focus on the “huge challenges we face in building the economy in a greener and more sustainable way”, as well as on the climate crisis where “we have to do radical things “.
This is only the second time since 2008 that a government has come to the end of its four-year term on the sprawling island, and the first time since 2003 that a government has retained its majority.
Deep public distrust of politicians amid repeated scandals sent Icelanders to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.