Published November 4, 2016
Formal coalition talks will begin next week, but we already have some strong indications of which parties could comprise Iceland’s next ruling coalition.
Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson spoke with reporters yesterday, Vísir reports, where he briefed the press on the progress being made so far in the informal talks he has had with the leadership of other parliamentary parties. As reported last Wednesday, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson gave the mandate to the Independence Party to form Iceland’s next government.
While Bjarni said that formal coalition talks should begin early next week, he shared the progress talks have been making so far.
“We had the most substantial talks with the Progressive Party first of all, the Restoration Party and Bright Future second of all, and the Left-Greens third of all,” Bjarni told reporters. “Of course, it is clear that talks with the Left-Greens have the longest ways to go. But I have been considering whether those details over which we disagree the most will be addressed in parliament in the coming years. That’s not exactly clear.”
Conspicuously absent from Bjarni’s disclosure was any mention of the Social Democrats or the Pirate Party. Talks with these two parties were reportedly short, at least in comparison to his talks with the other parties he discussed.
As such, with all this considered, it is quite possible that Iceland’s next ruling coalition will be comprised of the Independence Party, the Restoration Party, Bright Future, and either the Progressives or the Left-Greens. The Progressives, while ideologically closer to the Independence Party than the Left-Greens, also lost half of their seats after last Saturday’s elections; their inclusion in the new coalition would likely spark considerable anger in the general public. At the same time, as Bjarni said, finding common ground between the Independence Party and the Left-Greens could prove very challenging.
Normally, elections are held in May, giving plenty of time for the various parties to work out their differences before announcing the formation of a new coalition. As Iceland had early elections this year, there is a considerably smaller window of time for a coalition to be formed. The Grapevine will keep readers updated on developments as they arise.
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: