Iceland's Pirate-led bloc 4 seats short of govt goal

REYKJAVIK • Iceland yesterday faced a wrangle over its next government after the anti-establishment Pirate Party and its allies gained ground, but fell short of a majority in snap elections sparked by the Panama Papers scandal.

Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson told the national broadcaster RUV he would resign after his Progressive Party suffered a plunge in support.

Opinion polls had predicted the "Pirates" would benefit from a public urge to punish establishment parties after Mr Johannsson's predecessor, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, stepped down over allegations about his family's holdings stashed in tax havens.

In the end, the Pirates and three left-of-centre allies gained 28 seats, four short of the 32 needed to command an overall majority in the 63-member Parliament, the Althingi, according to preliminary results announced late on Saturday.

"We are very satisfied," said Pirates co-founder Birgitta Jonsdottir, an activist, poet and WikiLeaks supporter.

"We are a platform for young people, for progressive people who shape and reshape our society... like Robin Hood because Robin Hood was a pirate, we want to take the power from the powerful to give it to the people."

Founded just four years ago, the Pirates were credited with up to nine seats, making them the third largest party in the island nation.

Its allies are the Left-Green movement, which picked up 10 seats, the Social Democrats, with four, and the centrist Bright Future, with five, preliminary results show.

The Pirate Party, whose headquarters is aboard a boat anchored in the port of Reykjavik, see themselves as a force to reinvigorate democracy.

They have set out a five-point programme that includes constitutional change to make leaders more accountable, free healthcare, greater protection of natural resources and the closure of tax loopholes for large corporations.

They also want Icelanders to hold a referendum on membership of the European Union - a long-standing political issue whose objective they oppose, but wish to be settled.

Among other groups, the centre-right Progressive Party picked up seven seats while the Independence Party had 21 seats.

The Regeneration Party, which could be the kingmakers in the election, garnered seven seats.

The leader of the Independence Party, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, will be given the mandate to negotiate on the majority in Parliament.

Negotiations are expected to be very tense between the Regeneration Party and the Independence Party, from which it split over disagreement to hold a referendum on joining the EU.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Iceland's Pirate-led bloc 4 seats short of govt goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe