COPENHAGEN, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Iceland has voted more women than men into its parliament, a first in Europe, in a national election that saw the ruling left-right coalition strengthen its majority, final results showed on Sunday.
Thirty-three women were voted into the 63-seat parliament in Saturday’s election, up from 24 in the last election. Iceland, a North Atlantic island of 371,000 people, was ranked the most gender-equal country in the world for the 12th year running in a World Economic Forum (WEF) report released in March.
“In a historical and international light, the most significant news is that women are now first time in majority in the Icelandic parliament, and a first in Europe. This is good news,” President Gudni Johannesson told broadcaster RUV.
Only three other countries – Rwanda, Cuba and Nicaragua – have more women than men in parliament, while Mexico and the United Arab Emirates have an exact 50/50 split, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
In Europe, Sweden and Finland have 47% and 46% women in parliament, respectively.
“Iceland is yet again leading the way on gender equality!” the UK ambassador to Iceland, Bryony Mathew, said on Twitter. “Fantastic!”
Opinion polls had forecast the governing coalition would fall short of a majority but a surge in support for the centre-right Progressive Party, which won five more seats than in 2017, pushed its total count to 37 seats, according to state broadcaster RUV.
The current government, which consists of Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party and the Progressive Party, said before the election that they would negotiate continued cooperation if they held their majority.
President Johannesson said he would not hand a mandate to form a new government to any party, but would await coalition talks between the three parties.
The Independence Party again became the biggest in parliament with 16 seats, unchanged from the last election. Party leader and former Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said he was optimistic that the three parties could form a coalition and he would not demand to lead a new government, RUV reported.
The Left-Green Movement got eight seats, down from 11 in the 2017 election, although two parliamentarians left the party shortly after the last election. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry)
Iceland election: Ruling coalition expected to hold majority
Reykjavik (dpa) – Iceland’s ruling coalition is expected to hold a majority in the country’s parliamentary elections despite Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s party suffering losses.
Early partial results from the country’s regions on Sunday night indicated Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green Movement would lose several percentage points, while the smaller of her two coalition partners, the agrarian Progressive Party, would gain ground.
The strongest force is likely to be another coalition partner, the conservative Independence Party of Finance of former premier Bjarni Benediktsson.
Iceland’s 63-seat parliament is one of the oldest in the world. 32 seats are required for a majority.
A final result is not expected until Sunday morning.
Jakobsdottir has governed the island of some 360,000 people for four years. She entered into an unusual coalition across the political centre with the Independence Party and Progressive Party after the last parliamentary elections in 2017.
Polls ahead of the vote indicated there could be a renewed majority for the three-party coalition.
In Iceland’s election, political stability again at stake
Earlier – COPENHAGEN, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Icelanders ended voting late 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 like climate change and healthcare.
The North Atlantic island of 371,000 has had a period of stability since 2017 under the ruling left-right coalition, after years of political scandals and distrust of politicians following the 2008 financial crisis.
The current government coalition led by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement won its mandate on a promise to secure stability after Icelanders went to polls five times from 2007 to 2017.
In 2017, the Left-Greens, who call themselves a “radical left wing party,” teamed up with unlikely partners – the pro-business Independence Party and the centre-right Progressive Party – to the anger of some in the party grassroots.
While Jakobsdóttir remains popular, polls suggest her party will lose support, marking the end of her coalition. Support for the Independence Party, Iceland’s biggest party, is also declining, but the election result may still give former Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson a mandate to form a new government.
A shattered political landscape will make it difficult to form a new government, but Jakobsdóttir may seek a coalition with other left-wing parties that opinion polls suggest will gain support.
“If we get such a government, we are going to see some changes when it comes to taxation of the rich, and environmental questions are going to be more important,” said Baldvin Bergsson, political analyst at broadcaster RUV.
Climate change is an important issue for Icelanders, who like to call their nation the “Land of Fire and Ice” because of its other-worldly 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 nations, but especially younger voters are pushing for even bolder steps.
Left-wing parties are also calling for more government spending on healthcare, which has been the most important topic in the election.
Successful weathering of the pandemic and the lifting of coronavirus restrictions has reopened borders, providing a needed boost to the vital tourism sector, which attracted some 2 million foreign visitors in 2019.
“The pandemic was a huge blow to the important tourism industry,” said Stefania Oskarsdottir, a political scientist at University of Iceland, adding that high public spending has fuelled optimism.
“Despite coming out of a deep recession, the average Icelander feels that these are good times,” she said.
Polls closed at 2200 GMT on Saturday, with a final result expected on Sunday morning.
(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen; Editing by Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler)
Photo – Katrin Jakobsdottir Facebook Page