From Iceland — Reykjavík Elections: Big Changes, Uncertain Future

Reykjavík Elections: Big Changes, Uncertain Future

Published May 16, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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The results of municipal elections across Iceland last Saturday showed significant gains for the Progressive Party in many municipalities, and Reykjavík was amongst them. As such, the majority coalition in Reykjavík City Council–led by the Social Democrats with the Pirate Party, the Reform Party, and the Left-Greens–has fallen. What the next coalition will be remains to be seen, as talks between party leaders are still ongoing.

Low turnout, interesting results

Election day in Reykjavík saw a lackluster turnout, with 61.1% of those eligible to vote actually voting. When all the ballots were counted, the results were the following:

Independence Party: Six seats, down from eight.
Social Democrats: Five seats, down from seven.
Progressive Party: Four seats, up from zero.
Pirate Party: Three seats, up from two.
Socialist Party: Two seats, up from one.
Reform Party: One seat, down from two.
Left-Greens: One seat, holding steady.
People’s Party: One seat, holding steady.

As there are 23 seats on Reykjavík City Council, the coalition does not have the numbers to hold. Furthermore, the Left-Greens have announced that despite retaining their single seat, they will not seek to be a part of whatever the new coalition will be.

Einar Þorsteinsson, who leads the Progressive Party list for Reykjavík, is therefore in a key negotiating position. Speaking to radio station Rás 2 this morning, he said that he will be speaking both with Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson as well as Independence Party councilperson Hildur Björnsdóttir.

Progressives in the catbird seat

How negotiations between the Social Democrats and the Progressive Party will pan out is uncertain. When Dagur spoke to the Grapevine on April 26th, the Progressive Party’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2014 elections was brought up within the context of racism in Icelandic society.

“I thank you for taking this up with the Progressive Party in 2014, because I took that very strongly to heart,” he said. “At that time, I took the step of excluding the Progressive Party as an option for cooperation if they would not clean up their act. They never did. The chairman of the party, the vice chairman, nobody from the party–they just held back. They were kind of indirectly pleased to see their support going from 2% to 12%. They capitalised on this in the elections, so I said, OK, politically speaking this is a victory of getting 12%, but I can’t work with someone who capitalises on racism.”

Possible coalitions

Granted, 2014 was two elections ago, and the election results show that few options are possible without the inclusion of the Progressive Party. Based on the reactions from councilpersons following the election results, some parties are more willing to work with certain parties than others.

Einar, when asked directly if he would negotiate with the Social Democrats, said that he believed it best not to rule out any party. Dagur told reporters that he would naturally like to include everyone who has been in the outgoing coalition, adding that he does not necessarily need to be mayor in whatever coalition is formed. Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir of the Pirate Party expressed much the same sentiment, while Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir of the Socialist Party said that they were willing to work with any party that put social welfare first, naming the Pirate Party, the People’s Party and the Left-Greens specifically in that context.

Negotiations are still ongoing at the time of this writing, and it may still be days or even weeks before an agreement is reached on who will lead Reykjavík’s new city council.

If the Social Democrats and the Progressives can see past their differences, the most stable coalition would likely be the Social Democrats, the Progressive Party, and the Pirate Party.

A coalition that comprises all of the previous coalition parties–with the exclusion of the Left-Greens, who have recused themselves from any possible majority–would be comprised of the Social Democrats, the Pirate Party, the Reform Party, the People’s Party and the Socialist Party. This coalition would be decidedly less stable.

Since Einar has said that he will speak with the Independence Party, a coalition including the Progressives and the Independence Party would need only two more seats. As the Socialists appear unwilling to work with either of those parties, and the Left-Greens have recused themselves, this would mean bringing in both the Reform Party and the People’s Party. At the same time, it may also mean bringing in a single party with more seats rather than these two, but those negotiations may prove more difficult to conclude.

Negotiations are still ongoing at the time of this writing, and it may still be days or even weeks before an agreement is reached on who will lead Reykjavík’s new city council.

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