Published January 2, 2017
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has again given the mandate to form the next government to Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson. Formal talks between his party and the Reform Party and Bright Future have therefore begun, but the majority formed by these three will still be very slim.
The President had originally given the mandate to form a coalition to the Independence Party. Coalition talks between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future broke down last November, 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.
However, Bright Future chair Óttarr Proppé told Rás 2 that more progress has been made this time around, and he is optimistic that they will be able to reach some kind of joint platform soon.
As optimistic as he may be, this does not change the fact that these three parties will, if they form a government, have a majority of exactly one seat. Such a coalition will demand complete obedience from all parliamentary party members in order to hold.
It is perhaps for this reason, amongst others, that Morgunblaðið now reports that chairs for the both Left-Green Party and the Progressive Party have been in discussions over whether one or both of them could form a coalition with the Independence Party instead. These parties won ten seats and eight seats, respectively, in comparison to Bright Future’s four seats and the Reform Party’s seven seats.
Shortly after Bjarni returned the mandate to the president last time around, Left-Green chair Katrín Jakobsdóttir 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.
If this latest round of coalition talks break down, there are a couple of options. Parliament may face a crisis the could lead to either a minority government, or the formation of a “national government”, wherein there is no ruling coalition nor opposition, but rather, all parties share power equally. New elections next year are also a distinct possibility, either in conjunction with a minority government or national government, or on its own.