Published November 2, 2016
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has just announced that he has given the Independence Party the mandate to form the next government.
At a press conference just moments ago, the President announced his decision, reasoning that the Independence Party “is the largest party in the country. It is clear that this option is the most viable to produce results.”
When asked if Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson had indicated what parties he might involve to take part in this coalition, the President said that he had not been told this.
“I am helping the parties to form a coalition, but it’s in their hands to do so,” the President said.
As the Independence Party now has 21 seats in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament, they have a number of options where forming a majority is concerned. The idea of a three-party coalition, which Bjarni has hinted at, is on the table, and could be comprised of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens, and the Restoration Party. At this point, it is not even certain who the next Prime Minister will be.
However, the outcome should be more clear after the weekend. Bjarni is now meeting with party members to discuss their next steps. While normally, elections are held in late spring, giving MPs plenty of time to hammer out a joint platform for a new coalition, Iceland’s early elections in the middle of autumn have made the window of time for forming a coalition that much shorter.
The results of last Saturday’s elections saw the Pirate Party more than triple its numbers, but the Independence Party was nonetheless the party to win the most seats. Since then, there has been much speculation over who will lead the next government. As the Pirates have publicly declared they will not work with the Independence Party, it is unlikely the Pirates will be a part of the new coalition.
The turnout has been the worst in Icelandic history, at 79.2%.
The last Gallup poll before the elections showed the Independence Party overtaking the Pirate Party, while the Left-Greens and the Restoration Party appeared to be on their way up, as the Social Democrats and Bright Future dropped in support.
The campaign itself has been colorful, and certainly memorable, and the prospect of a Pirate Party takeover attracted the attention of the international media.
Finally, the most memorable moment from election night undoubtedly took place when Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson was being interviewed live at the Independence Party’s election offices. At that moment, a man interrupted the interview to ask the camera, “Why does no one remember the financial crash and [offshore tax shelter] Tortola? Why are you feeding the bird of prey?”, in reference to the symbol of the Independence Party, the falcon: