Voting in Iceland’s General Election closes at midnight Saturday – with caretaker prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir widely expected to be given a mandate to form a new centre-left government.
The elections were brought forward after the country’s economic crisis forced out the ruling Independence Party. “We’ve had the wind in our sails in this election campaign,” said Sigurdardottir. “I think that the people want Social Democratic policies to prevail and they want the solutions we offer. And I think now is the time to stow away neo-liberalism and install a strong leftwing government.” The leader of the conservative Independence Party has already as good as admitted defeat, but Bjarni Benediktsson said they’d be back. “I think it’s clear that we will lose seats and that’s been clear for a few months now,” he said. “So it’s been a defensive battle for us, however we are still a very strong party and we will regain what we are losing these days, in the future.” First results are expected shortly after the polls close with the final make-up of the 63 seat parliament due early on Sunday. The conservatives’ policy of encurring heavy debts to boost the financial services sector backfired with the collapse of global markets. The Social Democrats are to push for entry into the European Union and the development of the tourist industry to counter the crisis. Their likely coalition partners, the Left-Green Alliance, are more cautious about EU entry. They fear it might damage the traditional local fishing economy. But given the depth of the recession – the Icelandic economy is expected to contract by more than 10 per cent this year – pragmatism is likely to to prevail over ideology.