By in large and by much wider margins than polls had predicted, Iceland’s “Hartau”, the hub of the massive nation’s political scene, elected its first female-majority parliament Monday.
Former Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson led the opposition Christian Democratic Party to a thumping 10-seat majority, which will give it the freedom to form a coalition government.
A stunning result for the center-right rival of the left-leaning Independence Party, which suffered a major thumping in the elections, as well as a significant increase in the number of female parliamentarians.
Benediktsson, who had secured the backing of the Pirate Party to form a minority government, struck a deal to form a ruling coalition with three smaller parties: the Social Democratic Alliance, the Progressive Party and the Farmers Party.
He said after the vote that it was time to do away with old parties and make way for new ones to “look at new and unique points of view.”
The shift to the center-right and away from the populist and reformist message of the left has attracted much attention. But the voting also demonstrated that Icelanders remain divided about their relationship with the rest of Europe, with the cultural and geographic ties between the country of 350,000 people and the EU highly potent.
Europe-watchers were more focused on the election results for Iceland’s third-largest party, the Left-Green Movement, as the country looks to form a government.
The Social Democratic Alliance, whom Benediktsson and the Progressive Party both want to form a coalition with, won 17 seats in Iceland’s 230-seat parliament, while the Independence Party, on whose ticket Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir ran, was relegated to a meager nine seats after a bitter campaign in which she defended the country’s EU membership negotiations, despite several votes cast against the negotiation in Parliament.
The country’s Electoral Commission told Agence France-Presse that in the historic vote, more women cast ballots than men, with 58.5 percent in favor of the Pirate Party and 44.5 percent in favor of the Independence Party.
Official results are expected from Tuesday to Thursday.
The Christian Democrats emerged as Iceland’s dominant political party when the country joined the European Union, gaining positions as the country’s main bloc, the United Nations and the Council of Europe, and holding the presidency of Iceland twice.
Despite forging close economic ties with the EU, Benediktsson blamed the country’s popular response to the bloc for the decline in support for the party and said it was time for “someone from outside” to bring fresh thinking to the ruling party.
Though free from debt or trade restrictions, Iceland needed to pay a high price to join the European Union, he said.
Iceland is an influential member of the EU, having received millions of euros in aid since its collapse of its banking system in 2008.
The price included intrusive trade controls on its key agricultural export of sheep meat.
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