Centre-right opposition parties in Iceland are set for a return to power with nearly all votes counted after Saturday’s parliamentary election. The Independence party has 26% and the Progressive party 24%, putting them on track to win nearly 40 of the 63 seats. The ruling Social Democrats are trailing with around 13%.
It is a dramatic comeback for the parties widely blamed for Iceland’s economic meltdown in 2008.
In a Comment is Free piece in the Guardian, Alda Sigmundsdóttir explains:
These parties privatised the banks in the early 2000s, which wreaked such havoc on the nation. That was a brazen act so riddled with corruption that it boggles the mind that they got away with it. The Progressive party was also instrumental in pushing through the construction of a large-scale power plant to feed an aluminium smelter owned by Alcoa. This despite widespread protests and numerous studies that such an undertaking could have catastrophic effects, both environmental and economic. That single project was largely to blame for creating the economic conditions that culminated in the meltdown.
We thought we tossed these parties where they belonged four years ago, ousting them from power after the most violent civil protests in decades. The nation elected its first leftwing government, and a coalition between the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green movement was formed. Iceland had its first female prime minister, who was also openly gay.
You see, despite the glowing reports that regularly appear in the international media featuring Iceland as some kind of “economic recovery wunderkind” – which are usually grossly exaggerated – the present government has failed to live up to expectations. They promised to create a “wall of shields” around the country’s households, many of whom are still struggling under a mountain of post-meltdown debt, but they didn’t. They also promised a new constitution, but that did not come to pass. They promised to finish accession negotiations with the EU, but those are still not complete.
Granted, there were many things they did do right: substantially lowering unemployment, paying off some of Iceland’s debt to the International Monetary Fund early, turning the economy around, but, unfortunately, their successes have become obliterated in the pre-election propaganda war fought with the two parties now poised to take power.
The two parties will also slow down Iceland’s dalliance with EU membership:
The Eurosceptics argue that Iceland already gets most of the benefits of full membership through existing free trade arrangements with the EU and by being part the Schengen visa-free travel zone.
It is thought that Iceland’s new Prime Minister will be “Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson … at 38 years old, he is the wealthiest MP in the Icelandic parliament”
Good news for smaller parties:
A number of smaller parties have performed well, including Bright Future, which looks set to enter parliament with six seats and the computer activist Pirate party, with three.