Iceland’s prime minister resigns after disappointing election result

The centre-right Independence Party came out on top in the election and is likely take the lead in forming the next government, with anti-establishment parties performing somewhat less well than expected.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The Icelandic parliament building in Reykjavik.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson has resigned after his centre-right Progressive Party lost more than half of its share of the vote in Saturday’s election.

But left-wing anti-establishment parties have done less well in the election than polls initially predicted.

Instead, another centre-right party – the Independence Party, which before the election was in a coalition with the Progressives – gained votes, cementing its position as the largest party in Iceland’s parliament. Its strong position probably means it will take the lead in forming the next government.

Speaking to Reuters, Independence Party leader and current Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said, "We have the most support... So I'd say yes," when asked whether he considered his party the winner.

Still, the anti-establishment parties performed well, benefitting from anger following the Panama Papers scandal that exposed several Icelandic politicians and businessmen as having money hidden in offshore accounts.

The Pirate Party, which campaigned on a platform of increasing transparency, won around 14.5 percent of the vote. This is about 5 percent lower than its support in pre-election polls, but a nearly three-fold rise from the previous election,

The Left-Green Movement also won nearly 16 percent of the vote – placing it joint second in the parliament alongside the Pirate Party with 10 seats.

Some members of left-wing parties were hopeful that they still might be able to form a coalition:

It seems that many Icelanders voted for well-known incumbents because they didn’t want to risk jeopardising the economic recovery of their country, which was devastated in the 2008 financial crisis.

But the result, especially when viewed alongside the growth in support for populist parties throughout Europe, might just serve as a wake-up call to any Icelandic politicians who haven’t been taking their people’s resentment seriously.  

TRTWorld and agencies