Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Iceland elects first female parliament after center-right parties win with majority

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Iceland has elected its first woman-majority parliament after its center-right parties won 66 percent of the vote, the country’s president said Friday.

The head of state traditionally announces election results, and Ígisfjordur Island Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir later told a news conference that Icelanders chose “the best government” for the country and “one that will carry on the policies of stability, economic growth and innovation.”

The election outcome “shows Iceland is not the minority society that most have feared but the opposite, that Iceland has chosen continuity,” she said.

Re-elected Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s coalition partner, the populist Pirate Party, which has campaigned to end Iceland’s close relationship with the European Union, suffered its worst loss in almost two decades.

Some analysts say the unexpected strength of the nationalist Independence Party in the run-up to Thursday’s election has illustrated an appetite for a more unilateral foreign policy and tougher line on immigration.

Benediktsson’s center-right Progressive Party came third with 15 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. Independent candidate Birgitta Jonsdottir, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Pirate Party, came a distant fourth with less than four percent of the vote.

Election officials started counting votes Friday afternoon, and Chief Elections Officer Dagur Kristjansdottir said Greenland will likely announce the official results around midday Saturday.

Ahead of the vote, Benediktsson’s Progressive Party had vowed to reduce taxes, cut red tape, increase exports and slash the number of ministers in an effort to pull the Nordic country out of its worst economic crisis in modern history.

The government under its current term will have 28 ministers, down from 37.

Benediktsson said he respects the will of the people, but that he would stay in office and would continue the policies that brought him to power.

Benediktsson’s party had previously acknowledged the need to do better at holding elections.

“We know the criticisms, we have reacted and we will adapt,” Benediktsson said.

There had been speculation that the result could put Benediktsson in jeopardy of losing his job as prime minister.

Johannes Halldorsson, leader of the Independence Party, urged party members to support the prime minister.

“They have called for me to stay on as premier and I am ready to do that,” Halldorsson said.

In the wake of the recent election, the prime minister has come under criticism over his close relationship with a disgraced Swedish judge involved in a case that led to the imprisonment of three former bankers in Iceland.

Judge Lennart Asmundsson, who was in charge of a prosecution in the case that led to the imprisonment of three former bankers in Iceland, is a close friend of Benediktsson and has attended many political events with him.

The Independence Party was founded in 1944 and took part in Icelandic independence from Denmark, but has since changed hands several times.

The Pirates, an unruly group of artists, activists and internet activists, have helped mobilize younger voters who propelled them to power in two elections. They campaigned on promises to provide better health care and education while cracking down on banks that contributed to the country’s economic crash in 2008.

Halldorsson, the Independence Party leader, warned that other new parties could win.

“We expect other parties to govern too. We have to accept that, but do it in good faith, and not deprive the government of the majority,” he said.

The left-wing coalition from the Social Democratic Alliance came in second in the election with 21 percent of the vote, according to early results.

Conservative Moderates was third with 18 percent and the left-wing Anti-Fascist Alliance came in fourth with 16 percent.

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