From Iceland — Election Update: What To Do About The Northwest Ballot Situation?

Election Update: What To Do About The Northwest Ballot Situation?

Published October 6, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Marta Sigríður Pétursdóttir

As reported last week, the national election board concluded that the Northwest District, beset by one recount and revelations that many ballots remained unsealed after counting in the wake of Iceland’s general elections, could not satisfactorily demonstrate that their voting procedures had been done by the book. It is now up to a parliamentary committee to decide what to do next, preferably before Parliament is called back into session.

What options does this committee have? Fréttablaðið outlines four possible outcomes.

1. Let the initial results in the Northwest District stand. On the one hand, this would flip the gender balance in Parliament back to 33 women and 30 men, but MPs that Fréttablaðið spoke with expressed concerns that this would also give Parliament the power to personally choose the MPs who make it into Parliament.

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2. Let the results of the Northwest recount stand. This has the same downside as the previous option. In both cases, Parliament would also effectively be sending the message that the concerns of the national election board matter little in the end.

3. Hold new elections in the Northwest. While this would give the district a chance to do their election correctly, it also leaves the door open for strategic voting; voters, knowing already which parties have little chance of winning seat, could opt to vote for a stronger contender this time around.

4. Hold new elections for the entire country. This option appears to be the least likely. The general concern here is that it would undermine trust in Icelandic democracy and in Parliament.

As such, options 1 and 2 seem to be the most likely, especially as they would not influence how many seats each party wins. It would, however, change which exact candidates make it into Parliament and who do not. The third and fourth options leave a lot more open to uncertainty.

For the time being, coalition talks are still ongoing. Which way Parliament will rule on the matter of the Northwest still remains to be seen.

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