Iceland Decides 2017 – campaign update

icelandelection2

With less than a fortnight to go until the general election in Iceland, the country’s second in only a year, I take a look at the polls, the campaign so far and the likely options for government formation.

CAMPAIGN SO FAR

  • Benedikt Jóhannesson resigned as leader of the Reform Party, citing the party’s poor performance in the polls. Jóhannesson, who founded the party last year after splitting from Independence, said he is still passionate about the party and will continue to assist and work with them.
  • Documents leaked to the press revealed that Icelandic Prime Minister and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson sold all his remaining assets in an Icelandic bank fund just hours before the 2008 financial crash. According to the Guardian, Benediktsson withdrew 30 million krona (roughly £200,000) from the fund from Glitnir four days before the government seized control of the bank, with a further 21 million krona (£140,000) on the day itself. Although he has been accused of a conflict of interest, Benediktsson has denied any claims of wrongdoing.
  • The Icelandic National Front will not contest the general election, after withdrawing their party lists. It appears that a candidacy list or form was not signed in time for a deadline, and as such, the party has been forced to withdraw. The far-right party, formed in January last year, achieved only 0.16% of the vote in the last election.
  • 60% of Icelanders believe that immigrants have a positive impact on Icelandic society, according to a recent poll. The poll by the Social Science department of the University of Iceland also found that a plurality of citizens, 36%, believe the country should accept more immigrants.
  • A Pirate Party MP was forced to wear an eyepatch to a TV debate after injuring her eye.  Eva Pandora Baldursdóttir posted on Facebook: “My one year old daughter scratched my eye, which means I have to wear an eyepatch over the weekend. That wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m going to a TV debate tonight. There I’ll of course be wearing my beautiful eyepatch.”
  • For the first time, Iceland has qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia, after beating Kosovo 2-1.

POLLING

Polls over the last two weeks have almost all shown a strong lead for the Left-Green Movement over the ruling Independence Party, ranging from just under one percentage point to as strong as almost eight. Independence’s coalition partners, Reform and Bright Future, have performed poorly and it is expected that both parties will fail to reach the 5% threshold to re-enter parliament. Meanwhile, the newly-formed Centre Party, created only last month by former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, looks set to win seats in the Althing, perhaps with as much as 11% of the vote.

Here is an average of the most recent polls by five different pollsters:

  • Left-Green Movement: 26.1% (21.8-29.9)
  • Independence Party: 22.4% (21.1-23.7)
  • Social Democratic Alliance: 12.1% (8.3-15.3)
  • Pirate Party: 9.7% (8.5-11.4)
  • Centre Party: 8.9% (6.4-10.7)
  • People’s Party: 6.3% (5.7-7.4)
  • Progressive Party: 6.2% (5.5-7.2)
  • Reform Party: 3.6% (3.0-4.8)
  • Bright Future: 3.2% (2.6-4.2)

If this average reflects the actual result on the 28th, we could expect the Althing to look like this:

icelandpoll

Reform and Bright Future would fail to enter parliament after not receiving the required 5% of the vote.

POSSIBLE COALITIONS

Based on the seat projection, it is highly unlikely that the Independence Party will be able to form the next government. A coalition of four parties, Independence, the Centre Party, the People’s Party and the Progressives would be three seats short of a majority. For the Left-Green Movement, a three party coalition including the Social Democratic Alliance and the Pirate Party would give them a two seat majority in the Althing. Such a deal could be reached, but different views on accession to the European Union would likely be a major factor in negotiation. Should the Left-Green Movement wish to exclude pro-European voices from its administration, they could attempt a deal with the Pirates (who are neutral on accession) and the Centre Party. Under the current projection, this arrangement would be one seat short of an overall majority, but this could potentially change as we move further into the campaign.

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