Iceland Votes 2016: Þorláksmessa Update

icelandelection

Today is the Icelandic festive holiday of Þorláksmessa (Mass of St. Thorlak), where Icelanders will meet up with family and friends, and some will dare to eat the traditional dish of fermented skate with potatoes (there is no escape from the ammonia fumes of this dish!). As Iceland prepares to celebrate Christmas tomorrow (Icelanders have their festivities on Christmas Eve), the country is still in the middle of political turmoil.

It has been eight weeks since Iceland went to the polls, and the country is still unable to form a coalition government. In this latest update, I take a look at what has happened since and what the options in the new year might be…

WHAT HAPPENED?

In the last post roughly a month ago, the Left-Greens had just opened up talks for a five-party coalition, after the Independence Party failed to form a government. However, coalition talks collapsed just days after the article was posted. RUV, the state broadcaster, reported that the centre-right Reform Party were unable to agree with the Left-Greens on issues of fishing and proposed tax increases on higher earners.

The leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, returned the mandate to the President of Iceland, and informal talks also restarted between Independence, Reform and Bright Future, and between Independence and the Left-Greens, but to no avail.

At the start of this month, the President gave the Pirate Party the mandate to form a government, despite coming third in the election in October. However, just ten days later, they returned the mandate after their attempts to create a five-party coalition also failed.

SO WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS NOW?

Theoretically, Iceland’s President could offer the mandate to the Progressives, which would be controversial after their former leader was implicated in the Panama Papers in March this year. Also, as many parties had refused to negotiate with the Progressives, it is unlikely that their attempts to form a government would be successful either.

Another option is a national government, which could theoretically comprise of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Pirates, but would mean that parties that had refused to work together would have to cooperate for the greater good.

There’s also the possibility of a continuation of the previous Independence-Progressive government as a minority government, which could be quite unstable if left unsupported. This arrangement would be three seats short of the 32 required for a majority and could work if some arrangement was made with the Reform Party to support the government on certain bills. However, minority governments in Iceland have normally only been used to tide the country over before another election, with the last one that served a full term being in 1949.

If all three of these options were to fail, the final option would be another election, which could take place in the spring of the new year.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN AN ANOTHER ELECTION?

Based on current polling, the results of a fresh election would look like this:

  • Independence – 20 (+1)
  • Left-Greens – 11 (+1)
  • Pirates – 9 (-1)
  • Bright Future – 7 (+3)
  • Reform – 7 (-)
  • Progressives – 6 (-2)
  • Social Democratic – 3 (-)

This would mean there would be two possible coalition arrangements – a coalition of Independence, Progressives and either Bright Future or Reform, or a four-way coalition of the Left-Greens, the Pirates, Bright Future and Reform. Either way, there is a good chance that Iceland could end up in the same situation if elections were held again…

More updates to come…

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