From Iceland — Parliament Divided Over New Elections

Parliament Divided Over New Elections

Published September 15, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Now that Iceland’s government has collapsed with the departure of coalition partner Bright Future, the question on everyone’s mind is “what next?” Practically speaking, only two options are on the table: the formation of a new coalition government, or new elections. At the time of this writing, the parliamentary parties are divided over which option to choose.

Kjarninn reports that the Reform Party, the third party in the Independence Party-led coalition, have called for new elections “as soon as possible”, and Bright Future MP Björt Ólafsdóttir told public broadcasting service RÚV that new elections were “natural”. Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the chair of the Progressive Party, echoed this sentiment to RÚV, saying that forming a new coalition without elections will prove difficult at best. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the chair of the Left-Green Party, called new elections “the obvious choice”. Social Democrat chair Logi Ein­ars­son told MBL that he is looking forward to new elections.

However, the Pirate Party does not believe the time is right for new elections. Pirate Party parliamentary chair Birgitta Jónsdóttir told RÚV that she believes the formation of a five-party coalition should be explored before reaching for the option of new elections. Such a coalition would be comprised of the Pirate Party, the Reform Party, the Left-Greens, the Social Democrats and Bright Future. An attempt was made to form this coalition last autumn, but ultimately talks were unsuccessful.

These positions are not necessarily reflected by Gallup’s latest numbers on levels of party support. According to results published on August 31, neither Bright Future nor the Reform Party have enough support to win seats in parliament. At that time, the Independence Party ranked as the strongest party in the country, at 26.3%, but the Left-Greens, the Pirates and the Progressive Party are also in strong positions. The Social Democrats, at 9.7%, have been steadily increasing in support since last November, but were overtaken by the People’s Party, a new party formed only last September. The chair of that party, Inga Sæland, told Vísir that they are ready to run.

In all of this, municipal elections are scheduled to be held next spring, meaning that funding may be seriously strained for these parties.

At the time of this writing, RÚV reports that the Reform Party, the Progressive Party, Bright Future, the Left-Greens and the Pirates are holding separate meetings. The Independence Party will meet before noon, and the Social Democrats will meet after. What the results of these meetings will be remains to be seen.

As reported, news broke last night that Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s father, Benedikt Sveinsson, had provided a recommendation letter of “restored honour”, a legal procedure which restores one’s civil standing, for Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson, a man convicted of having raped his stepdaughter almost daily for 12 years. Bjarni, despite having been informed of this by Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen last July, kept this matter to himself, and Sigríður refused to release information to the press about who recommended Hjalti should receive restored honour. That is, until a parliamentary committee ruled that the Ministry had gone beyond the bounds of the law in concealing this information, and compelled the Ministry to release this information to the press.

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