Iceland Violated Right to Free Elections, ECHR Finds Skip to content
Alþingishúsið
Photo: Photo: Golli. Alþingishúsið .

Iceland Violated Right to Free Elections, ECHR Finds

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found this morning that Iceland violated the right to free elections and the right to an effective remedy in a case that concerned the 2021 elections to Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament. Iceland will have to pay the two applicants in the case €13,000 each in respect of non-pecuniary damages.

Recount irregularities

The case concerned irregularities in the recount of votes in the Northwest constituency that changed the allocation of seats in Alþingi after the 2021 elections. The applicants in the case, Guðmundur Gunnarsson of the Reform Party and Magnús Davíð Norðdahl of the Pirate Party, were both unsuccessful candidates in the constituency, the smallest of Iceland’s six constituencies.

“When the results came in, there was only a thin margin of votes in the Northwest and South constituencies, which could have affected the allocation of levelling seats,”  the ECHR’s press release reads. Levelling seats are distributed nationally between parties that receive at least 5% of the total vote. “A recount was ordered and it changed the standings in the Northwest constituency, leading to Mr Gunnarsson losing his levelling seat.”

Lacked impartiality safeguards

Certain irregularities were found to have taken place during the recount, including the unsecured and unsupervised storage of ballots between the first count and the recount.

The ECHR found that Alþingi’s handling of the applicants’ complaints “had lacked necessary impartiality safeguards and had been characterised by virtually unrestrained discretion”. The procedure meant that the applicants did not have an effective domestic remedy, which violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

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