Iceland set for haggle after no party wins majority in election

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REYKJAVIK: Iceland on Sunday faced a wrangle over its next government after the anti-establishment Pirate Party and its allies gained ground but fell short of a majority in snap elections sparked by the Panama Papers scandal.

Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson told the national broadcaster RUV he would resign on Sunday after his Progressive Party suffered a plunge in support.

Polls had predicted the “Pirates” would benefit from a public urge to punish establishment parties after Johannsson’s predecessor, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, stepped down over allegations about family holdings stashed in tax havens.

In the end, the Pirates and three left-of-center allies gained 28 seats, four short of the 32 needed to command an overall majority in the 63-member parliament, the Althingi, according to preliminary results announced late Saturday.


“We are very satisfied,” said the “Pirates” cofounder Birgitta Jonsdottir, an activist, poet and WikiLeaks supporter.

“We are a platform for young people, for progressive people who shape and reshape our society … like Robin Hood because Robin Hood was a pirate, we want to take the power from the powerful to give it to the people,” Jonsdottir told AFP, referring to the legendary English outlaw.

Gaining up to nine out of the 63 seats in the parliament, the Althingi, the Pirates became the third largest party in the country, since its founding in 2012.

The Pirates sealed a pre-coalition agreement with three other left-center parties and together they garnered 28 seats of the 32 required for an absolute majority in the Icelandic parliament.

They have set down a five-point program that includes constitutional change to make leaders more accountable, free health care, greater protection of natural resources and the closure of tax loopholes for large corporations. They also want Icelanders to hold a referendum on EU membership — a long-standing political issue whose objective they oppose but wish to be settled.

Among other groups, the canter-right Progressive Party picked up seven seats while the Independence Party had 21 seats.

The center Regeneration Party, which could be the kingmakers in the election, garnered seven seats.

The leader of the Independence Party, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, will be given the mandate to negotiate on the majority in the parliament.

The negotiations would be very tense between the Regeneration Party and the Independence Party, from which it split over disagreement to hold a referendum on joining the EU.

“We have not been negative towards other parties or how governments should be formed,” leader of the Regeneration Party, Benedikt Johannesson said.

The election was triggered after the Panama Papers revealed that 600 Icelanders including cabinet ministers, bankers and business leaders had holdings stashed away in offshore accounts.

Implicated in the Panama Papers scandals, Benediktsson denies having wanted to escape taxes by creating a company in the Seychelles, saying he has never invested a dime.

AFP

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