Today is the day that Icelanders go to the polls and decide what direction the country goes for the next four years. What’s so interesting about this election is that it was triggered by a massive demand from the public in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal that forced the Prime Minister out of office and that the Pirate Party, formed only four years ago, looks set to be one of the biggest winners and could be the largest party by the end of the night.
Here is a guide to the election, what the polls say and what the aftermath could be…
HOW DO ICELAND ELECT THEIR PARLIAMENT?
Every four years, the Icelandic people go to the polls to elect 63 representatives for the world’s oldest parliament, the Althing.
54 of the 63 MPs that make up the parliament are elected using proportional representation in six constituencies, each with between 8 and 13 seats. These constituencies are: Reykjavik North , Reykjavik South, Northwest, Northeast, South, and Southwest.
The system used is the d’Hondt method, the same system used for EU elections.
The other nine MPs are ‘supplementary seats’ attached to particular constituencies, and are allocated in order to ensure parties hold a number of seats in proportion to their share of the national vote.
WHAT PARTIES ARE CONTESTING THE ELECTION?
Prior to the election, six parties were represented in the Althing:
- Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) – centre-right party and currently in power, with 19 seats
- Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn) – centre-right/liberal party and in a coalition with Independence, with 19 seats
- Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) – centre-left party and the largest party in opposition, with nine seats
- Left-Green Movement (Vinstri græn) – left wing party with seven seats
- Bright Future (Björt framtíð) – liberal party with six seats
- Pirate Party (Píratar) – direct demoracy and ‘pirate politics’ party with three seats
Also contesting the election are a new party called Revival, who split from the Independence Party, as well as a number of minor parties.
WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?
Bearing in mind that the Independence Party have almost always been the largest party in Icelandic history, it is no surprise that they are doing well in the polls and could hold on to that title. However, polling has suggested there could be a tight race between them and the Pirate Party, who have led the charge against the main parties and stood up against perceived corruption in the current administration.
Meanwhile, most of the other parties are performing significantly worse than the 2013 election, with the Social Democratic Alliance and the Progressive Party, both losing half of their support. The only exception to this is the Left-Green Movement, which may gain roughly 5-6% more support than three years ago.
Polling from Icelandic online newspaper Kjarninn:
- Independence Party – 24.9% (2013 – 26.7%)
- Pirate Party – 19.4% (2013 – 5.1%)
- Left-Green Movement – 16.5% (2013 – 10.9%)
- Progressive Party – 10% (2013 – 24.4%)
- Revival – 9.9% (new party)
- Bright Future – 6.9% (2013 – 8.3%)
- Social Democratic Alliance – 6.5% (2013 – 12.9%)
- Dawn – 1.9% (2013 – 3.1%)
- National Front – 0.8% (new party)
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE ALTHING?
Using the polling, we can roughly estimate the possible number seats that each party will receive in the Althing:
- Independence Party: 19 seats
- Pirate Party: 13 seats
- Left-Green Movement: 12 seats
- Progressive Party: 6 seats
- Revival: 5 seats
- Bright Future: 4 seats
- Social Democratic Alliance: 4 seats
Once the results are in, the party with the most seats gets to form a government first. However, a repeat of the current Independence-Progressive coalition would be one seat short of a majority.
The possibility of the two largest parties in this case, Independence and the Pirates would also be impossible, as the Pirate Party have essentially ruled out any involvement in a government including either of the current ruling parties.
A work around for the Independence Party may be to arrange a three-party coalition, working with both the Progressives and Revival. Although Revival has not ruled out working with any party to form a government, the party told the Reykjavik Grapevine they are ‘probably closest to Bright Future’. In addition, due to their recent split from the Independence Party over their eurosceptic views, it is unclear how likely such a coalition is without concessions, such as a referendum on EU accession talks.
Should Independence fail to form a coalition, the Pirates would be the next to try. However, their coalition-building would be more complex: an arrangement with the Left-Green Movement and the Social Democratic Alliance would fall three seats short of a majority.
For them, a four-party coalition, also including Bright Future, may be the only solution. Although this formation is the same as that currently running Reykjavik’s city council, a coalition with so many parties would be unprecedented in Icelandic history and some may question the stability of such an arrangement.
Over the next week, we’ll be taking a look at the results in Iceland and the process of forming a new government…