Icelanders vote in parliamentary election

Icelanders vote in parliamentary election
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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Polls show the opposition, led by the anti-establishment Pirate Party, could topple the centre-right coalition.

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Icelanders have defied strong wind and rain to vote in a parliamentary election.

Polls show the opposition, led by the anti-establishment Pirate Party, could topple the centre-right coalition.

Faith shaken

Icelanders’ faith in their political and financial establishment was shaken after the 2008 financial crisis.

It was further eroded this year when senior government figures were named in the Panama Papers on offshore tax havens.

The Pirate Party

Founded by internet activists and led by poet Birgitta Jonsdottir, the Pirates promise to clean up corruption, look into granting asylum to ex-US spy contractor Edward Snowden and directly involve more people in lawmaking.

“We are not going to flip-flop Iceland. We just want to bring Iceland into the 21st century, and we do that by actually daring to do things differently,” Jonsdottir said after casting her ballot.

“Change is beautiful,” said leader of Iceland's Pirate Party Birgitta Jonsdottir, as she vores in Reykjavik on Saturday pic.twitter.com/9gpAV5B73Z

— Stine Buch Jacobsen (@StineBuch) October 29, 2016

Horse-trading

The Pirates would be looking to form a majority with the current opposition parties, the Left-Green Movement, the Social Democratic Alliance and Bright Future.

The newly-established Vidreisn (Reform Party) could become kingmaker.

Benedikt Jóhannesson, formaður vidreisn</a> á kjörstað: „Aldrei verið jafn auðvelt að kjósa“<a href="https://t.co/qfEiqJK1gD">https://t.co/qfEiqJK1gD</a> <a href="https://t.co/i89EJ28W4t">pic.twitter.com/i89EJ28W4t</a></p>&mdash; Vísir (visir_is) October 29, 2016

The pro-European, liberal party has not taken sides yet.

However, some analysts predict it would favour the current government as its economic policy leans to the right.

“Icelandic society has been stagnant for a while and it’s important that we get these reforms that have been long awaited. And we have the programme,” said Vidreisn leader Benedikt Johanneson.

The Independence Party remains the biggest party.

However, support for the Pirates has been steady at around 20 percent over the last few months, well above the five percent it won in the 2001 election but below a 40 percent peak.

Iceland’s Left-Greens in last-minute election surge – #Iceland#GeneralElections#Politicshttps://t.co/hPmJPHrD7U

— Iceland Monitor (@IcelandMonitor) October 19, 2016

Polls close

Polls were due to close at 2200 GMT.

The first results are expected soon afterwards.

Pre-election polls suggest the Independence and Progressive parties stood to lose their current majority in the Althing.

This means they would have to find a third coalition partner to stay in power.

An October 29 poll showed 36 percent support for the government parties, while the four opposition parties took around 49 percent.

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Pirates poised to take over Iceland — The protest party who stand to win big in Saturday's election https://t.co/gpWSl1C97L

— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) October 28, 2016

The business

The current government parties point to their own success in reviving the economy.

Fuelled by a boom in tourism, Iceland has recovered from its banking meltdown.

Economic growth this year is expected to hit 4.3 percent.

Parties on both sides have pledged no major changes to the ongoing lifting of remaining capital controls, imposed after the 2008 crisis.

The governor of Iceland’s central bank says the remaining curbs could be removed fully next year.

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Investors who poured into Iceland now face a “messy” election https://t.co/njmNFISt9wpic.twitter.com/9MciuKBAzz

— Bloomberg (@business) October 25, 2016

Turnout

Turnout in Iceland is normally high at around 80 percent.

However, as in most countries, young voters are less likely to cast their ballots.

This could hit support for the Pirates.

What they are saying

“I voted the Pirates this time because I want change. I am tired of all this mess,” – voter Georg Jonas.

“Change is beautiful, there is nothing to worry about. We can sense that the times are a-changing,” – Birgitta Jonsdottir, quoting US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

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Hashtags

#Iceland, #PirateParty, #vidreisn

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