Municipal Election Results: Gains for Progressives Across Iceland

iceland election

Last Saturday’s municipal elections will go down in Icelandic history books, both for the Progressive Party’s success across the country, and the Independence Party’s worst-ever outcome in Reykjavík. The Progressive Party doubled its following nationwide compared to the last municipal election, held in 2018, and more than tripled its number of councillors from 22 to 67.

Iceland holds municipal elections every four years, in all municipalities concurrently. While the results gave the Progressive Party much to celebrate, several other parties saw losses in their number of seats on local councils, including the Centre Party, the Social-Democratic Alliance, and the Reform Party. While the Independence Party lost following across the country, it remains the party with the most local councillors nationwide: 110.

Reykjavík results

Reykjavík’s four-party governing coalition – consisting of the Social-Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Left-Green Movement – lost two of its 12 seats in the election, and therefore has lost its majority on the 23-seat Reykjavík City Council. The Social-Democratic Alliance and Reform Party both lost seats, the Left-Green Party held its single seat, while the Pirate Party increased its number of seats from two to three.

As elsewhere in the country, the Progressive Party saw great success in Reykjavík, going from zero seats on the City Council to four. The Socialist Party also saw an increase in voters, doubling their seats from one to two. While it received the largest proportion of the vote, or nearly 25%, the Independence Party lost one seat, going from seven to six councillors following the election.

Poor voter turnout

Voter turnout decreased in all of the country’s largest municipalities except Hafnarfjörður, where it increased by 2.4%. The lowest voter turnout was in Reykjanesbær, where less than half of registered voters turned up to the polls. Voter turnout was 63% across the country, a drop from 68% in the last municipal elections.

In Reykjavík, voter turnout was 61.1%, or 5.9% lower than in 2018. It bears noting, however, that amendments to election legislation that took effect in January increased the number of registered voters in the city by around 10,000. A total of 61,359 people voted in the city in this year’s election, while in 2018 that number was 60,417.

Coalition talks begin

In light of the weekend results, parties across the country are beginning coalition talks. In Reykjavík, Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has announced that his Social-Democratic Alliance has begun negotiations with the Pirate Party and the Reform Party on forming a governing coalition. Progressive Party councillor Einar Þorsteinsson said he was open to collaborating with all parties with seats on the council. Independence Party councillor Hildur Björnsdóttir stated she had had several informal talks with other councillors, while Left-Green Movement councillor Lif Magneudóttir has stated the party will not participate in majority coalition talks this term.

Election Investigation Will Take At Least One More Week

Bjarni Benediktsson icelandic politics

The chairmen of the Left-Green Movement, Independence Party, and Progressive Party continued their governing coalition negotiations yesterday. The three chairmen Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Bjarni Benediktsson, and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson have played their cards close to their chest as far as the talks are concerned, but now say their coalition agreement is far along. The new government will, however, not be presented until the Credentials Committee completes its investigation of election proceedings in the Northwest Constituency.

Seven weeks have passed since Iceland’s parliamentary election on September 25, 2021. The governing coalition held its majority in the election, and three parties have been holding regular negotiations to define their continued collaboration since that time. The ministers now say that the main content of the coalition agreement has been ironed out, but confirm they will not present the new government until the investigation in the Northwest Constituency is completed.

Election investigation to take at least one more week

Uncertainty hangs over the election results from Iceland’s Northwest Constituency. Over a dozen legal complaints have been filed due to election proceedings in the constituency, where ballots were left unsealed and unsupervised between the initial count and recount that occurred the following day. The Credentials Committee has met 22 times to investigate the case and recently stated it will be at least another week before its final report is submitted to Parliament. Time is of the essence, as Parliament is required to pass a budget bill before the end of the year.

Division of ministries still unconfirmed

Bjarni stated yesterday that the division of ministries between the three parties is yet to be confirmed. The Independence Party has expressed interest in taking on the Ministry of Health, currently in the hands of the Left-Greens. The party leaders have also expressed the possibility of reorganising ministries, including establishing a ministry of infrastructure. According to Bjarni, however, ministry assignments have not been discussed much at this point in the talks.

New Government Must Wait for Election Investigation Results

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

It’s not possible to present the new government until the Credentials Committee completes their investigation of election proceedings in the Northwest Constituency, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated in a RÚV interview this morning. Formal coalition talks between the Left-Green Movement, Progressive Party, and Independence Party are on hold this week while two of the party chairmen attend conferences abroad. Katrín stated it was unusual for a sitting government to be re-elected in Iceland, and that creates certainty despite the ongoing investigation in the Northwest Constituency.

Uncertainty hangs over the results from Iceland’s Northwest Constituency following the September 25 parliamentary election. Over a dozen legal complaints have been filed due to election proceedings in the constituency, where ballots were left unsealed and unsupervised between the initial count and recount that occurred the following day. After conducting an investigation, West Iceland Police stated there were no indications that votes were tampered with, but added they could not confirm that was the case.

Katrín stated that the new government would not be presented until the Credentials Committee had completed their investigation of the case, but that despite the uncertainty in the Northwest Constituency, the overall election results were clear. There is a sitting government and the government clearly held their majority in the election. “So there is really no uncertainty about the government or the majority,” Katrín stated. The negotiations are being conducted on the basis that Katrín will continue as Prime Minister. It has yet to be announced how the other government ministries will be distributed.

Katrín is currently in Glasgow, Scotland attending the COP26 Climate Change Conference. Transport Minister and Progressive Party Chairman Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson is also abroad for a Nordic Council session that begins in Copenhagen, Denmark today.

Climate Change at Forefront of Coalition Talks

The chairpersons of the three coalition parties continue to “discuss the issues” in their ongoing coalition talks. Emphasis will be placed on matters relating to climate change, RÚV reports, although the three parties admit to espousing different visions.

Coalitions talks “progressing nicely”

After maintaining their majority in the recent elections, the leaders of the three governing parties have spent the past two weeks discussing the possibility of extending their coalition for another term.

Chairpersons Katrín Jakobsdóttir of the Left-Green Movement, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson of the Progressive Party, and Bjarni Benediktsson of the Independence Party have kept their cards close to their vest. Following a meeting today, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV that the talks were progressing nicely. “In reality, we’re still going over these different sets of issues and diving deeper into individual points.”

When asked if the three chairpersons were in agreement upon issues relating to climate change and social welfare, Katrín replied in the affirmative: “Yes, I think we can expect to reach an agreement on these issues.”

Taking time to prevent difficulties later

When asked about the state of affairs, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson remarked that the leaders were reviewing the list of assignments. “We’re trying to reach a united vision on those issues that have yet to be settled from our last term. There are a few points that require additional time, which we’re willing to give, in order to prevent difficulties down the road.”

Bjarni also stated that something needed to be done regarding the clumsy structure of the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization (i.e. Rammaáætlun), especially when it comes to decisions relating to green energy. “We’re excited for the opportunities, to create jobs, to work toward energy transitions, etc.”

Climate change looms large

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson revealed that although the parties haven’t changed the emphasis have shifted. The threat of climate change looms large and will play a significant role in the challenges to come over the next four years.

Citing the discussion around green investment during the ongoing Arctic Circle Assembly, Sigurður stated: “Mankind needs to extricate itself from the difficult position that it has gotten itself into. We can rightly be proud of our successes over the past decades, but we also have opportunities, and we can continue to be a role model for other countries, which is something that we’ve been discussing; we’re approaching some kind of agreement.”