Sunday

27th May 2018

Focus

New Iceland government pledges to resume EU debate

  • The next prime minister Bjarni Benediktsson is leader of the Independence Party. He is one of the Icelandic politicians named in the Panama Papers. (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

Following a two-month impasse after a general election that was held early because of revelations in the Panama Papers, Iceland finally has a new government.

It was presented on Tuesday (10 January) and will consist of the conservative right-wing Independence Party and two liberal centre parties, Vidreisn (also known as the Reform Party) and Bright Future.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Since the October elections every party besides the Progressive Party has tried to form a government.

Five parties twice tried, and twice failed, to build a broad coalition from centre to left involving the Left greens, Social democrats, Pirates, Vidreisn and Bright Future.

The three parties that in the end formed a government had also twice entered discussions which did not reap results, before everything clicked.

Both Vidreisn and Bright Future want to join the EU. In fact Vidreisn was born out of dissatisfaction amongst internationally minded liberals inside the Independence party after the last government withdrew Iceland's application in 2014.

The conservative Independence party however is a fierce opponent of accession.

According to the platform-statement of the new coalition government the conservative stance seems to have come out on top.

It states: “The government parties agree that should the subject of a referendum on accession negotiations with the European Union be brought up in Althingi [parliament], the issue shall be brought to a vote and finalised towards the end of the legislative period. The government parties may have different opinions on this matter and will respect each other’s views.“

So, no changes in Iceland´s EU policy for the near future and even if the parliament was to support a new EU referendum, the majority of Icelanders remain opposed to joining the EU, according to opinion polls.

Panama Papers

The next prime minister will be Bjarni Benediktsson – leader of the Independence Party. He is one of the Icelandic politicians named in the Panama Papers.

To many it would thus seem that the largest protest in Iceland's history, which resulted in the resignation of then prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson in early April, was much ado about nothing. It is, however, not so simple.

In the months leading up to the general election it looked like the Pirate Party – a radical party formed in 2012 around the demand for a new constitution, more direct democracy and internet freedom – would be the largest beneficiary of the revelations of offshore assets owned by Icelanders.

At their peak the party was polling over 35 percent. In the end they only got 14.5 percent, which was still 9.4 percent more than in the election in 2013.

Part of the reason was a low turnout of young voters, who were most likely Pirate voters. But it was also because people decided to vote for other parties instead. Two other new parties, Vidreisn and Bright Future, together received 17.7 percent of the vote.

The Pirate Party and Bright Future were founded in 2012 and Vidreisn in the summer of 2016. So parties formed in the last five years received almost one third of the vote.

More woman

The Independence Party held its own position in the elections and remained by far the largest party with 29 percent of the vote despite being involved in the Panama-scandals.

Its coalition government, which involved the Progressive Party lead by Gunnlaugsson as well, did however not survive.

Gunnlaugsson's party received its worst result in its 100-year history – 11.5 percent – and the government lost its majority.

On the other side of the political spectrum the left greens strengthened its position and is now Iceland´s second largest party for the fist time in its history with 15.9 percent.

The social democrats, once a party that regularly received around 30 percent of the vote, were almost wiped out and only got 5.7 percent of the vote.

For the first time there are seven parties in parliament, more women than ever before (30 out of 63 MPs) and no possibility of forming a two-party majority government, which is the traditional pattern of power in Icelandic politics.

Analysis

Iceland's not-so-quiet revolution

In the space of three years, Iceland's main parties have seen their vote decimated, and new parties may well take almost half the electorate in Saturday's election.

Panama Papers: Iceland PM half-resigns

Iceland PM to step aside, but only for "an unspecified amount of time”, as ruling coalition fights for survival following Panama Papers leak on offshore funds.

Iceland MPs suspend session over PM tax-haven link

Iceland cancelled its parliamentary session on Tuesday as MPs deliberate how to vote in an upcoming no-confidence motion on the PM. Crisis comes after Panama Papers exposed shady offshore accounts.

Iceland set to re-elect scandal-hit prime minister

The Left Green Movement was leading in polls until very recently - but now surveys suggest the Independence Party, historically Iceland's largest, will remain the lead party in government following Saturday's elections.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations