In the recent parliamentary election in Iceland, the Independent Party gained 21 out of 63 seats and its leader, Bjarni Benediktsson, was given the mandate to form a government. But it turns out not to be a simple job. The fact that some parties said prior to the election that they wouldn’t work with certain other parties isn’t making life easy for him, as the next largest parties, the Left-Greens and the Pirates – which both gained 10 seats – refuse to work with the Independent Party because of its Panama connections. Bjarni Ben is making moves with Vidreisn and Bright Future, which will give them a one-person majority, but some members of the IP are more interested in working with the Left-Greens as well as with the Progressive Party (PP), whose ex-leader Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was exposed in the Panama Papers. Not surprisingly, the Left-Greens don’t want to work with the PP either. Oh, and the PP is split because most of the PP politicians don’t want to work with SDG.
Vidreisn is essentially a splinter party from the IP but is pro-EU (the IP is anti-EU). Some members of the IP view Vidreisn with animosity because of the splinter. Bright Future is centre in terms of politics, and have said that they’re not particularly keen on the idea of working the the IP.
Bjarni Ben said yesterday that if he feels he’s not getting anywhere (and he’s not), he’ll relinquish his mandate of forming a government, which means it will probably then go to Katrin Jacobsdottir from the Left-Greens, who wants to form a government with all parties except the IP and PP. It might well be that the Left-Greens will form a ruling coalition with Vidreisn and BF, with the Pirates and the now-miniscule Social Democrats on the sidelines, ready to support the coalition if need be. The Pirates are happy to relinquish ministerial positions, and the Social Democrats – who had said they were happy to form a Left-Centre alliance prior to the election – performed so badly that they have said they don’t want to be part of the ruling coalition.
It’s problematic also because Iceland has always had a two-party ruling coalition, but with 7 parties in the parliament the numbers don’t work this time and it has to be three.
I predict that the next Prime Minister will be Katrin Jakobsdottir. And the world will take notice.
UPDATE: It’s now over a month since the elections and talks have happened twice, first between the Independent Party, Vidreisn and Bright Future and then between the LG, Pirates, BF, Vidreisn and Social Democrats. But both sets of talks petered out. Vidreisn and Bright Future appear to have become inseparable. After having given the mandate to form a government to first Bjarni Ben and then to Katrin Jakobsdottir, he decided on Friday to let the parties sort it out themselves for the time being. Stay tuned.