In Icelandic elections, political stability is at stake again
- Iceland holds parliamentary elections on Saturday
- Record nine parties could enter parliament, polls show
- This will make it difficult to form a new government
- The most important topics are health and climate change
COPENHAGEN, September 25 (Reuters) – Icelanders vote on Saturday in an election that could have a messy outcome with a record nine parties likely to enter parliament, making it difficult to find common ground on topics such as climate change and healthcare.
The North Atlantic island of 371,000 citizens has enjoyed a period of stability since 2017 under the ruling left-to-right coalition, after years of political scandals and mistrust of politicians following the financial crisis from 2008.
The current government coalition led by the Left-Green Movement of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir won its mandate on the promise of ensuring stability after Icelanders went to the polls five times between 2007 and 2017.
In 2017, the left-wing Greens, who call themselves a “radical left party”, joined with unlikely partners – the pro-business Independence Party and the Center-Right Progressive Party – to the anger of some members. from the base of the party.
While Jakobsdóttir remains popular, polls suggest his party will lose support, marking the end of his coalition. Support for the Independence Party, Iceland’s largest party, is also on the decline, but the election result could still give former Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson a mandate to form a new government.
A disrupted political landscape will make it difficult to form a new government, but Jakobsdóttir may seek a coalition with other left-wing parties that polls show will gain support.
“If we get such a government, we will see tax changes for the rich, and environmental issues will be more important,” said Baldvin Bergsson, policy analyst at broadcaster RUV.
Climate change is a big issue for Icelanders, who like to call their nation the “land of fire and ice” because of its supernatural landscape of volcanoes and glaciers used in the HBO TV series “Game of Thrones”.
Iceland has already pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, well ahead of most other European countries, but young voters in particular are calling for even bolder action.
Left-wing parties are also calling for increased government spending on health, which was the most important topic of the election.
Resistance to the pandemic and the lifting of restrictions on coronaviruses have reopened borders, giving a much needed boost to the vital tourism sector, which attracted some 2 million foreign visitors in 2019.
“The pandemic has been a blow to the important tourism industry,” said Stefania Oskarsdottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, adding that high public spending has fueled optimism.
“Despite coming out of a deep recession, the average Icelandic thinks these are good times,” she said.
The polls open at 09:00 GMT on Saturday and end at 22:00 GMT, with a final result expected Sunday morning.
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen Editing by Frances Kerry
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