Elections in Iceland: Trends

Parliamentary elections in Iceland were held on 29 October and the elections were inconclusive. No party by itself has the majority which means lawmakers will now have to negotiate to form a majority in the Parliament.

The results underline a trend that is happening all over Europe, inconclusive elections.

How does this system work? After elections for the 63 seats in Althingi (Icelandic
Parliament), the President authorizes a leader of a political party to form a cabinet, usually starting with the leader of the largest party. If He(or She) is unable to form a cabinet, the president will then ask another leader of a political party to form a government.

The outcome from these elections? Messier is impossible…


(Source: http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/elections2016/ )

Many poll companies predicted that the Pirate Party would win the elections because of the growing discontent with the Icelandic political. It started with the 2008 financial crisis, and more recently the Panama Papers which involved the former Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. This lead to his resignation on 5 April 2016 and influenced to great extent the election specially the progressive party outcome as we can see in the chart above.

Once again the polls were proven wrong by the voters like it happened with the UK referendum. It was the Independence Party (centre-right) who eventually won the election.

What does this mean?

In my opinion these elections prove the existence of 3 political trends that Europe is currently facing:

a) Euroscepticism, it’s something that is affecting Europe and specially the EU in the last 4/5 years. The European elections in 2014, where UKIP won in UK and far right parties all over Europe conquered many seats are proof of this statement. Also the recent referendum in the UK is clear evidence of growing Eurocepticism in the EU. Important political leaders rom Poland, Netherlands and Hungary have campaigned for an EU exit[i]. Taking this into account, it’s no surprise to see the Independence party coming First. While the EU denies it has to change for a more democratic system, Eurosceptic politicians will easily captivate Icelanders. Especially if we look at the Icelandic economy and how they recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, they did not bail out the banks, they imprisoned the bankers and used monetary policy to promote exports growth. Eight years later and their Debt/GDP ratio is on a good track along with it’s economic growth rate more than twice the European average and their low unemployment rate of 3.3%[ii]

b) Anti-Establishment, if the Icelanders were already uncomfortable with their political system and sick of all the corruption scandals these elections prove it. Yes the Independence Party won, but if we watch closely at the vote share we see that the parties who capitalized the most were the Pirate Party and Regeneration Party. The pirate party supports Direct Democracy and Pirate Politics, while the regeneration party, constituted by a former Pro EU membership faction of the Independence party, is more on a Radical Liberal stance being anti-elite and anti special interests.

This same appeal for anti-establishment politics was seen in 2015 when Podemos won 65 seats in the Spanish Parliament on it’s first national elections, a clear message to the Spanish political system as it is now in Iceland.

c) Coalitions, it seems that many European countries nowadays have their government run by a coalition like Belgium, Finland, Denmark or with the support of a parliament agreement like the Portuguese example. Even the German left wing parties are considering the creation of a coalition.[iii]

With the political discontentment many voters remain undecided till the last minute, which leads to voting in a more “sincere” way than the usual “utlitarian” perception of elections. This leads to a divided voting share that is more probable to result in situations of political impasse that need to be resolved by negotiations such as recently in Spain.. [iv]

The elections were held but are inconclusive, the formalities will now start with the party with most votes trying to achieve a Coalition deal but the task couldn’t be harder. Will we have a “mainstream” party agreement or a scenario where a single party rules due to the abstinence of other parties like again happened last week in Spain. Or will Iceland follow the trend of Coalitions?

That can take a time, but let’s hope it takes the least time possible and it’s according the will of Icelandic voters.


Luís Carvalho, Economics Student and proud 2015 graduate of democracy


Disclaimer: This Post reflects solely the author’s opinion it does not represent the whole platform.




[i] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/25/european-leaders-fear-brexit-vote-could-herald-eu-collapse-unles/


[ii] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/three-charts-that-show-icelands-economy-recovered-after-it-imprisoned-bankers-and-let-banks-go-bust-10309503.html


[iii] http://www.dw.com/en/spd-greens-and-left-a-bloc-to-bring-down-merkel-cdu/a-36084684


[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/28/spain-to-get-government-after-10-month-political-impasse-mariano-rajoy




One thought on “Elections in Iceland: Trends

  1. Euro skepticism has little to nothing to do with the results of the election other than the emergence of the Regeneration party which leeched votes from the SDA and Independence parties, the topic was not really discussed leading up to the elections and mostly it was a referendum on the performance of the sitting government. The kind of hostile euro septicemic infused with racism and Islamophobia common now in europe is not really a thing in Icelandic discourse. Also Iceland has always been governed by coalitions there has never been a single party government.


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