The independence party easily pulls ahead in the icelandic general elections


Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy


14 May 2007

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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

The independence party easily pulls ahead in the icelandic general elections

PDF | 123 koIn English

The Independence Party (SJ) led by Prime Minister Geir H Haarde won the general elections that took place on 12th May last with 36.6% of the vote clinching 25 seats, i.e. +3 in comparison with the last election on 10th May 2003. He is followed by the Social Democrat Alliance (SF) led by Ingibjörg Solrun Gisladottir who won 26.8% of the vote and 18 seats (-2). The Left-Green Movement (VG) led by Steingrimur Sigfusson recorded a strong rise winning 14.3% of the vote and 9 seats (+4). However the Progress Party (FF) member of the outgoing government coalition regressed winning only 11.7% of the vote and 7 seats (-5). Its chairman, outgoing Industry and Trade Minister, Jon Sigurdsson failed to win back his seat. The Liberal Party (F) led by Gudjon Kristjansson, won 7.3% of the vote and 4 seats as in 2003. Finally the Iceland-Living Earth Movement, an ecologist party created on 22nd March by journalist Omar Ragnarsson won 3.3% of the vote and failed to enter the Althing. The participation rate rose to 83.6% a lower result by 4.2 points than on 10th May 2003.

Successor to David Oddsson, the former Chief of Government (1991-2004), a man who had dominated political life for fifteen years, Prime Minister Geir H Haarde said he "was very happy with the results achieved by his party,"; he has therefore succeeded in leading his party to victory once more (the Independence Party won the general elections in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003). The Progress Party however, which had already lost during the local elections on 26th May 2006, did not manage to win back its electorate. The outgoing government coalition (Independence Party-Progress Party) has only just saved its majority (32 seats). However the Progress Party will probably not participate in the next government.

"If the results are confirmed we shall leave the government. It is disappointing. This result is the firm sign that we should withdraw. We shall lend an ear to the judgement cast by the electorate who have called for politics to change hands," declared the party's chairman Jon Sigurdsson when the first results were announced. Some opinions had been expressed during the electoral campaign to show that the party could not hope to renew its partnership with the Independence Party to govern the country. Valgerdur Sverrisdottir, Foreign Minister said that her party should not take part in government if the results in the general elections on 12th May were unsatisfactory. A few weeks earlier Agriculture Minister, Gudni Agustsson (FF) said something similar. "The government which has achieved the best economic results in Europe has been punished."

The Independence Party also indicated it might try other alliances. The Prime Minister said before the election that "if the government coalition was to collapse he would resign." "Even if we win the majority it is not certain that we shall form the same coalition. Our political system is such that everyone must be able to work together," declared Geir H Haarde adding, "We shall work with any party who will agree with us on issues we believe to be the most important." "This election is a personal victory for the Prime Minister but the present coalition will not survive," maintained political analyst Jon Hakon Magnusson.

On the part of the opposition the Social Democrat Alliance easily dominated its partners in the Left-Green Movement, but the latter were however pleased with their breakthrough. They managed to place environmental themes at the heart of the electoral campaign forcing the other parties to position themselves clearly on major industrial projects, which although forming a motor to drive the island's economic growth, they do endanger the environment and therefore the quality of the Icelanders' life. The Left-Green Movement hopes that the development of some industrial projects, notably the building of tall chimneys fed by geothermic and hydroelectric energy will be suspended in order for their real effects on the environment to be assessed more carefully. At the end of March the inhabitants of Hafnarfjördur rejected the extension of an aluminium foundry owned by Alcan by referendum.

"These were the most exciting elections in decades. The important thing is that the outgoing government has lost. We need a new, efficient, powerful and preferably leftwing government, in which the Social Democrats will be the central pillar," declared the leader of the Social Democrat Alliance, Ingibjörg Solrun Gisladottir, on the day of the vote. When the first results were announced she said she was pleased with her party's score and asked for "a union of leftwing forces."

Finally the Liberal Party clearly did not suffer negative reactions after several members of the party criticised the government's immigration policy in November 2006 – the theme of immigration has never been used until now by any party in Iceland contrary to what happened in Norway and Denmark. The party remained stable in comparison with the general elections in May 2003 without recording any improvement.

Negotiations to form the future government coalition are due to be long and difficult for the Prime Minister. The two most likely government coalitions according to political observers are the following: an alliance between the Independence Party/Social Democrat Alliance led by outgoing Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde or a partnership between the Social Democrat Alliance/Left-Green Movement/Progress Party which would make Ingibjörg Solrun Gisladottir the future Head of Government. Some also foresee that the Liberal Party might replace the Progress Party in this last coalition.

A coalition between the Independence Party/Social Democrat Alliance might prove difficult however since the two parties disagree on major issues such as the continuation of certain industrial projects, the place of Iceland in Europe and even the redistribution of profits produced by growth - the Prime Minister supports more reductions in company tax whilst the Social Democrat chairwoman would like to see a reduction in inequalities and greater consideration for the needs of the most vulnerable.

Discussions will be long and we shall probably have to wait several weeks before the composition of the next government is made known. Tradition has it that the main party in the government coalition takes the post of Prime Minister whilst the second party manages the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

General Election Results – 12th May 2007 in Iceland:

Participation : 83,6%

The independence party easily pulls ahead in the icelandic general elections

PDF | 123 koIn English

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