From Iceland — Elections '17: Independence Party Strongest, Next Gov't Unclear

Elections ’17: Independence Party Strongest, Next Gov’t Unclear

Published October 29, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

All the votes have been counted in Iceland’s parliamentary elections. While the Independence Party lost five seats, they still came out the strongest, but a broad coalition is the only possibility for a functioning government.

With all votes counted, the results are as follows:

Bright Future: 0 seats, down 4, 1.2%
Progressive Party: 8 seats, breaking even, 10.7%
Reform Party: 4 seats, down 3, 6.7%
Independence Party: 16 seats, down 5, 25.2%
Peoples’ Party: 4 seats, a new party in, 6.9%
Centre Party: 7 seats, another new party in, 10.9%
Pirate Party: 6 seats, down 4, 9.2%
Peoples’ Front of Iceland: 0 seats, 0.2%
Social Democrats: 7 seats, up 4, 12.1%
Dawn: 0 seats, 0.1%
Left-Greens: 11 seats, up 1, 16.9%

These results largely reflect final polling. As such, the previous government of the Independence Party, Bright Future, and the Reform Party has fallen. There are no two-party coalitions in the cards.

The only possible 3-party coalition in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament would be the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Social Democrats. There is considerable disharmony between the platforms of the first two, however, which will make forming a joint platform difficult. Barring that, there is also or the Independence Party, the Progressives, and either the Centre Party or the Social Democrats. However, the Progressives and the Centre Party are not on great terms; Sigmundur left the Progressives on bad terms. How the Social Democrats would get on with the Progressives is a whole other matter. In addition, there is the question of which party Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson will give the mandate to form a coalition.

The Independence Party could be tapped, on account of winning the most seats, however they also took the most losses, and they led the previous government, which was mired in scandal that ultimately led to the former coalition’s undoing less than a year into its term.

If three-party negotiations do not work, or the party granted the mandate opts to exclude the Independence Party, a minority government would be the only other option. Such a coalition could require the participation of at least five parties, making it a difficult choice as well.

Two new parties, the Peoples’ Party and the Centre Party, have done well for themselves; especially the latter. Led by former Prime Minister, and former Progressive chair, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, this party was formed just three weeks before the elections yet managed to secure seven seats.

These snap elections were the results of outrage the sprang up last month when it was brought to light that for Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s father had signed a letter of recommendations for a convicted paedophile to have his civil standing restored, and that Bjarni had deliberately kept this information from the press and the public, ultimately led to the dissolution of the government.

This condensed election season has been decidedly fierce. Local newspaper Stundin was slapped with an injunction last week, and thereby prevented from reporting on Bjarni’s financial activities shortly before the 2008 crash. The right wing press had also been diligent in paying for boosted attack articles on social media.

Voter participation was higher in Reykjavík than in the previous two elections, but somewhat lower in some rural districts. In addition, the number of women in the Icelandic parliament has also decreased by six, and has not been this low since 2007, comprising 23 seats out of 63.

Which party will receive the mandate to begin to attempt to form Iceland’s next government still remains to be seen.

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