Is Iceland heading for post-election deadlock?

Photo: Þorvaldur Örn Kristmundsson

Charles Gittins

mbl.is
Charles Gittins

The very latest opinion poll for Iceland’s upcoming general election indicates that the current government coalition will fall and that the country is facing the prospect of complicated coalition talks in November.

Extrapolating from the percentage share of the vote each party is expected to achieve, six parties are set to return MPs to Iceland’s parliament (‘Alþingi’) after the elections on 29 October.

Of these six parties, two are often broadly classified as right/centre-right parties, two as centrist, and two as left/centre-left.

MORE: Politics in Iceland: A beginner’s guide

None of these pairings – assuming that ideologies and personalities would even make such pairings possible – look likely to return a majority of Alþingi MPs (32) or be able to form a government:

  • Independence Party + Regeneration = 26 MPs
  • Progressive Party + Pirates = 21 MPs
  • Left-Greens + Social Democratic Alliance = 16 MPs
63 MPs sit in Iceland's parliament ('Alþingi').

63 MPs sit in Iceland's parliament ('Alþingi'). Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert Jóhannesson

In fact, according to this poll, conducted by the Social Science Research Institute of the University of Iceland (23 September-5 October), Iceland’s only hope of a two-party coalition is a government bringing together the right-wing Independence Party and the open-democracy Pirates – an unlikely combination.

Three-party coalitions might be just as tough a challenge.

Iceland's current government, made up of Independence Party and Progressive ...

Iceland's current government, made up of Independence Party and Progressive Party MPs. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert

If the current centre/right government (Independence/Progressive) could persuade the brand-new right-leaning Regeneration Party (‘Viðreisn’) to enter the fold, they together would just squeak a majority with 32 MPs.

A possible centre/left grand alliance (Pirates/Left-Greens/Social Democratic Alliance) would miss out on the 32 majority by just one MP.

If Iceland is to avoid political deadlock after the elections, parties may have to start contemplating the possibility of getting in to bed with coalition partners who are not necessarily to their taste.

Leader of the Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson (left) and unofficial ...

Leader of the Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson (left) and unofficial leader of the Pirate Party, Birgitta Jónsdóttir (right) - Iceland's two largest parties. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Árni Sæberg

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