Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Iceland re-elects centre-right political parties blamed for financial meltdown

Chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson casts his ballot (AP/Brynjar Gauti)
Chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson casts his ballot (AP/Brynjar Gauti)

Icelanders has voted even more overwhelmingly than predicted to return to government the centre-right political parties that oversaw their financial armageddon five-and-a-half years ago.

Bjarni Benediktsson, the young, smooth, handsome leader of the Independence Party, is highly likely to become the next Prime Minister after his party – by far the country's most successful since the Second World War – finishes negotiating the terms of a coalition with the Progressives, the country's oldest.

 

The Independence Party won 26.7 per cent of the vote and the Progressives, which had been far ahead in the polls over the last three months, 24.4 per cent.

 

"The Independence Party has been called to duty again," Mr Benediktsson said. "We've seen what cutbacks have done for our healthcare system and social benefits... now it's time to make new investments, create jobs and start growth."

 

The Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement, which won an emergency election in 2009 after violent protests outside parliament forced the government to resign, saw their share of the vote fall to 12.9 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively.

 

It was billed as the "weirdest" and the "swingiest" election there has been in a democratic country in a generation, but it was, in its way, quite predictable. "I don't know anyone who voted for them," said Edna Noadottir, an educational consultant in her 20s. "Well, apart from my Grandma, I mean. For old people, and for rich people, the Independence Party is like a religion. Some people, maybe, they had their faith shaken in 2009, but they have found it again."

 

But the disgruntled young people, who claim, with some familiarity, to have poor employment prospects and are unable to afford their own homes, certainly made their mark. Fifteen parties in total contested the 63 seats in the country's parliament under a system of proportional representation. Most of the parties were new and shared the view that Icelandic politics is broken and that things have to be done differently. Bright Future, the most prominent of the new parties, received 8.2 per cent of the vote and will have six seats.

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