Partial results showed Iceland’s government is poised to win a clear majority in Saturday’s elections, although it is not yet clear if Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s coalition of left and right will agree to continue in power together.
Iceland’s three-party alliance has achieved four years of stability after a decade of crises.
With more than a third of the votes counted, the left-leaning green Jacobsdottir, the conservative Independence Party and the progressive centre-right party took 41 of the 63 seats in parliament, up from 33 they previously held.
But the Green Left movement was seen falling behind its right-wing partners, putting Jacobsdottir’s future as prime minister – and the coalition itself – in doubt.
“We will have to see how the government parties work together and how we do,” Jacobsdottir told AFP, where partial results showed her party lost one seat in parliament from 11 it won in 2017.
However, a clear picture of the political landscape was expected to emerge later on Sunday only when all the votes were counted.
Eight parties are expected to win seats in the 1,100-year-old Icelandic parliament.
The divided political landscape makes it difficult to predict which parties might end up forming a coalition.
“I know the results will be complex, and it will be complicated to form a new government,” Jacobsdottir said.
The largest party appeared to remain the Independence Party, whose leader Bjarne Benediktsson – the current finance minister and former prime minister – is eyeing Jacobsdottir’s position.
She was seen getting two seats, to 18.
“These numbers are good, (it’s) a good start to the evening,” he told public broadcaster RUV.
But the biggest winner in the election appears to be the centre-right Progressive Party, which won five seats, to 13.
Alliance to talk
If the partial results are confirmed, the Progressives would become the second largest party in Iceland, getting rid of the Green Left movement.
Party leader Sigurdur Inge Johansson declined to say whether he would consider forming a two-party coalition government for the minority with Istiqlal.
“I will wait to comment on any possible government cooperation until we have clearer results,” he told RUV public radio.
Eva Onodóttir, a professor of political science at the University of Iceland, told AFP there was a “possibility” that the current tripartite government would decide to move forward together.
“All the leaders of the three government parties said that they would naturally talk to each other if they were to retain the majority after the elections.”
However, the only reason the three seemed to maintain their majority was the strong performance on the right, while the left lost support.
“What will the Green Left do with this? We will see,” she said.
With eight parties about to be represented in Parliament, there are many coalition options for parties to look out for.
We have ‘huge challenges’
During her four-year tenure, Jacobsdottir introduced a progressive income tax system, increasing the social housing budget and extended parental leave for both parents.
Hugely popular, it has also been hailed for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with just 33 deaths in the country of 370,000 people.
But she also had to make concessions to keep peace in her coalition, which may have cost her the ballot.
On Saturday, she said, should she return to power, her party will focus on “the huge challenges we face to building the economy in a greener and more sustainable way,” as well as tackling the climate crisis where “we need to do drastic things.”
This is only the second time since 2008 that the government has reached the end of its four-year mandate on the sprawling island, and the first time since 2003 that the government has held a majority.
The public’s deep mistrust of politicians amid recurring scandals sent Icelanders to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.