Iceland parties set to form left-wing coalition

28th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The left-wing parties won a combined total of 34 of the 63 seats in Saturday's legislative election as voters punished the conservative Independence Party, in power for 18 years until being forced out in January, for what they perceived as its poor handling of the global economic crisis.


Reykjavik -- Iceland's Social Democrats are most likely to form a new government with former coalition partners, the Left Green Movement, despite their differences over joining the EU, analysts said Monday.

The left-wing parties won a combined total of 34 of the 63 seats in Saturday's legislative election as voters punished the conservative Independence Party, in power for 18 years until being forced out in January, for what they perceived as its poor handling of the global economic crisis.

Gunnar Haraldsson, director of the Iceland's Institute of Economic Studies, said he expected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir's Social Democrats and the Left Greens to resolve their differences on closer ties with Brussels and enter a new coalition together.

"The Icelandic people have voted for Europe and it is absolutely necessary that Johanna finds an acceptable solution," he told AFP.

"The two parties said during the campaign they were willing to continue to work together so I believe it would need a real split to prevent the formation of this coalition."

But Sirgurdardottir refused to be drawn in an interview with the Morgunsbladid newspaper on the consequences if talks fail with the Left Greens, who oppose EU membership over fears it could interfere with the Icelandic fishing industry.

"I cannot answer ... I am steadfast in resolving this issue with the Left Greens, so that we will continue to have a Social Democratic government. That is what the nation needs to get out of these troubles," Sigurdardottir said.

The 66-year-old, who took over as interim premier in February, campaigned on a promise to apply for membership of the EU and argued that the single currency, the euro, could have a stabilising effect on Iceland's ravaged economy.

Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, said Sigurdardottir was "determined" to take the North Atlantic island into the 27-member bloc.

"I doubt if the Social Democrats will accept a government without this," Kristinsson told AFP.

"Johanna will press for a solution which will lead towards an eventual membership application. She can't really back out of this," Kristinsson said.

The two parties, who formed an interim alliance in February, picked up 34 seats out of a total of 63 in the Icelandic parliament, the Althingi.

But "even without the Left Greens, the pro-Europeans have a clear majority in parliament," Gunnar Haraldsson points out.

The Progressive Party won nine seats and 14.8 percent of votes, while the Civil Movement a party formed at the height of the economic collapse, won four seats and 7.2 percent of votes.

Both support joining the EU, meaning a majority of 33 lawmakers in the Icelandic parliament are from pro-membership parties.

"Johanna has other options beside the Left Greens but they are clearly inferior -- a government of the Social Democrats, the Progressives and the Civic Movement would be very unstable," Kristinsson said.

Sigurdardottir was set to meet President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson later Monday to propose official negotiations with the Left Greens. A new coalition government is expected to be formed within two weeks from now.

AFP/Expatica

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