Iceland gets a right-wing government

BIRGIR THOR HARDARSON ICELAND OUT

Ottarr Proppe (L), leader of Bright Future, Bjarni Benediktsson (C), leader of the Independence Party, and Benedikt Johannesson (R), leader of the Reform party introduce an agreement on a new coalition government in a press conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, 10 January 2017. The new Icelandic government will consist of three parliamentary parties after the early elections in Iceland last October. The Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future will make up the new majority in the Althingi Parliament. The elections were called after Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned as Prime Minister in April after being associated with the Panama Papers leak.

After two months of negotiations, Iceland opts for a government in line with its political tradition


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Iceland has a right-wing government following more than two months of negotiations. The 330,000 nation has been unable to form a government since the country went to the polls on October 29.

The three-party coalition includes the first Independence Party (21seats), the liberal Restoration Party (7), and the Socio-Liberal Bright Future Party (4). The three parties control 32 seats in a 63-seat legislature, a thin majority that will hang in the balance.

The Prime Minister will be the Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson. Although he was implicated in the Panama Papers scandal, like the former Prime Minister and leader of his party Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, he managed to land politically on his two feet.

The leader of winning Restoration Party, Benedikt Jóhannesson, will become Minister of Finance and Óttar Proppé, leader of Bright Future, will become Minister of Education.

The Independence Party secured 29% in October, convincing voters that Iceland is on track to economic recovery. Indeed, with record numbers of tourists, 3% unemployment, and 4,3% GDP growth for 2016, that narrative appears convincing.

The leader of the Pirates Party, Asta Helgadottir, told the Financial Times that “it is, of course, an awkward situation that we will have another prime minister that was listed in the Panama Papers . . . I am not optimistic about the future of this government.”

Catalytic for the formation of a government was an agreement to debate a referendum on EU membership in parliament. That was a token concession, given that most parties in the Icelandic parliament oppose EU membership. The country applied in 2009 but withdrew its application in 2013.

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