In Iceland, center-right Independence Party is given mandate to form new government

By Iceland Monitor - November 2, 2016

The leader of Iceland’s Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson, will be given first crack of the whip at forming a new national government.

Benediktsson was invited to the presidential residence Bessastaðir for a meeting with President Guðni Jóhannesson Wednesday morning.

Benediktsson’s Independence Party won a clear victory in Saturday’s general elections in Iceland, securing 29 percent of the vote.

President Jóhannesson met individually with the leaders of all political parties earlier in the week to decide who would get a mandate first to form a government.

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Now that the Independence Party has that mandate, Benediktsson will be speaking to leaders of the other parties.

The Independence Party has 21 MPs in the new parliament and needs to find coalition partners who can bring 11 more, as a working majority in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament, Alþingi, is 32.

The Icelandic Parliament, Alþingi, in Reykjavik. (Ómar Óskarsson / The Iceland Monitor)
The Icelandic Parliament, Alþingi, in Reykjavik. (Ómar Óskarsson / The Iceland Monitor)

But forming a new coalition may not be easy, with a complex set of rivalries to manage.

Iceland’s Left-Green Movement – who came second in Saturday’s elections – said earlier that it would prefer governing coalition bringing together the entire opposition and leaving out the current two governing parties, including the Independence Party.

Party leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir told President Jóhannesson that the Left-Green Movement is “totally prepared to participate in and even lead a five-party governing coalition covering the political center and left.”

Meanwhile the leader of Iceland’s new centrist Regeneration party, Benedikt Jóhannesson, declined the opportunity to ally with the current government and keep them in power.

The Independence Party is one half of the outgoing government coalition. While the Independence Party improved its polling score by 2.3 percent as compared to the 2013 elections, its coalition partner the Progressive Party – badly damaged by the Panama Papers scandal – lost 12.5 percent and 11 MPs.