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Forming a Government Will Prove Challenging

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Forming a Government Will Prove Challenging

Alþingi, Iceland's parliament

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Last Saturday, October 28th, Iceland held a parliamentary election, one day short of a year since its last election. Final election results by party can be read here.

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, is meeting with all party leaders individually today to begin the process of forming a governing coalition. Though several parties have expressed their willingness to work with others, it is clear that differences in ideology and the distribution of seats will greatly complicate the process.

The results of Saturday's elections indicate significant changes since last term and a few historical firsts. A total of eight parties won seats in the 63-seat parliament, known as Alþingi. There have never been more parties in parliament. Of the eight parties, two have never before held seats in parliament: The Centre Party, and The People’s Party.

The Centre Party was formed only a few weeks ago by former Prime Minister and Progressive Party Chairman Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned after being implicated in the Panama Papers last year. The party won seven seats in their first ever election, though many of its MPs have previous political experience with other parties.

The People’s Party, running on a populist platform, was founded last year. Its key issues are better conditions for the poor, elderly, and disabled. It has been described by the New York Times as “railing against immigration, poverty, and corruption,” though leader Inga Sæland has attempted to distance herself from comments which had been interpreted as anti-immigrant.

Three of the eight parties which hold seats in parliament were founded less than two years ago, while only two (The Independence Party and the Progressive Party), are more than 20 years old.

The percentage of women MPs has decreased from 47.6 percent to 36.5 percent compared to last term (30 seats to 23). This is the lowest number of women MPs since before the banking collapse in 2008, according to Kjarninn.

The two parties with the most seats are The Independence Party, with 16, and Left-Green Movement, with 11. A governing coalition needs at least 32 seats to form a majority government. A three-party coalition will therefore be needed to form a majority government, though it is possible the coalition will consist of four parties or more.

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