Iceland votes on Saturday in an election that could see its unprecedented left-right coalition lose its majority, despite bringing four years of stability after a decade of crises.
Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, whose Left-Green Movement had never led a government before, is seeking a second mandate but a large number of parties could get in her way.
“It is challenging for the politicians but I think for democracy it is better to have everyone at the table,” Thorsteinn Thorvaldsson, a 54-year-old voter, told AFP on the eve of the election. With 33 of 63 seats, the outgoing coalition is a mix of the conservative Independence Party, the center-right Progressive Party, and the Left-Green Movement.
Opinion polls suggest a record nine parties out of 10 are expected to win seats in the Althing, Iceland’s almost 1,100-year-old parliament. That makes it particularly tricky to predict which parties could end up forming a coalition.
Some opinion polls suggest the current coalition will manage to secure a very narrow majority but others say it will fail. Prime Minister Jakobsdottir told AFP in an interview this week ,”Because there are so many parties, I think there will be a lot of different opportunities to form a government”.
During her four year term, Jakobsdottir has introduced a progressive income tax system, increased the social housing budget, and extended parental leave for both parents.
She has also been hailed for her handling of the Covid crisis, with just 33 deaths in the country of 370,000.
But she has also had to make concessions to keep the peace in her coalition, including a promise to create a national park in central Iceland which is home to 32 active volcano systems and 400 glaciers.
The Independence Party, which polls credit with around 20-24 percent of votes, also risks losing seats but is expected to remain the largest political party.
Its leader, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, is a former prime minister who comes from a family that has long held power on the right.
They are the Left-Green Movement, the Progressive Party, the Social Democratic Alliance, the libertarian Pirate Party, and the center-right Reform Party. A new Socialist Party is also expected to put in a strong showing.
political scientist Eirikur Bergmann said,”There is not a clear alternative to this government. If it falls and they can’t continue, then it’s just a free-for-all to create a new coalition”.