From Iceland — Election 2016: The Pendulum Swings Back To The Right

Election 2016: The Pendulum Swings Back To The Right

Published November 28, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

In the wake of failed talks to form a left-wing coalition, and a presidential decree that all party leaders should enter discussions with one another without ruling any party out, talks have once again begun between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future.

Kjarninn reports that the chairs of these parties have met again to try and iron out their differences for a second attempt at forming a ruling coalition. RÚV reports that they are in particular focusing on fishing management, which was a bone of contention the last time these parties were in talks.

Even if these talks lead to a new coalition government, it will face one major challenge: having a majority of exactly one seat. As such, they may need to bring in another party to defend this coalition.

As reported, the President announced last week that shortly after speaking with Left-Green chair Katrín Jakobsdóttir, he contacted the chairs of all political parties to discuss the situation. He decided that he would not give the mandate to any one party; rather, he told reporters that he reminded these party leaders of the responsibility that rests upon them to form a government. As such, he told these party leaders to enter discussions with one another to create a new coalition without ruling out working with any particular party. These talks he expects to conclude this weekend, or in the beginning of next week.

The President denied that Iceland was facing a government crisis, pointing out that the current ruling coalition is still in power, and would remain so until a new government is formed. While agreeing that a minority government is not completely out of the question, he does not believe that the situation has reached the point where forming a minority government is needed.

Coalition talks between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future broke down the week before last, as they could not reach an agreement on a common platform; most notably, regarding the management of fisheries and the question of a public referendum on accession to the European Union.

This week, Katrín attempted to form a new coalition comprised of her party, the Pirate Party, the Social Democrats, the Reform Party and Bright Future. However, those talks broke down, as the Left-Greens and the Reform Party were having difficulties finding common ground on a number of issues, amongst them fishing management and some proposed tax increases on high income earners.

As it stands now, there are very limited options in terms of what new coalition could be formed. Attempts at forming coalitions around both the centre-to-right parties and centre-to-left parties have failed, making a coalition between more dissimilar parties even less likely.

Apart from a minority government – which are rather unstable and vulnerable to votes of no confidence – there is also the possibility of a þjóðstjórn, or national government, wherein there is no ruling coalition nor opposition; rather, all parties must work together and share ministerial posts. This has only been attempted in emergency situations and even then, only temporarily.

As such, what Iceland’s next government will be is still a mystery. The Grapevine will keep readers updated as the situation unfolds.

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