Published November 29, 2016
Barely a day after three-party talks were announced between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future, the Independence Party and the Left-Greens entered into talks of their own. They have informed President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson of the meeting, and will update him on the results.
RÚV reports that Independence Party chair Bjarni Benediktsson and Left-Green chair Katrín Jakobsdóttir are in discussions regarding the formation of a new ruling coalition. Such a partnership would only give them 31 seats in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament, so it is likely that one issue for discussion will be which party will be invited to be third in the coalition.
Sources close to RÚV report that the Left-Greens have tapped the Social Democrats for that role – a party that has been in ruling coalitions with both the Left-Greens and the Independence Party in the past, making it a practical choice. These sources also say the Independence Party have effectively given up trying to convince anyone to invite the Progressive Party into any ruling coalition.
As reportedthe chairs of the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future met yesterday to again try and iron out their differences for a second attempt at forming a ruling coalition. However, fishing management proved to be a major source of disagreement.
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.
Shortly thereafter, 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.
Last week, the President announced that shortly after speaking with Katrín, 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.
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.