The shape of Iceland’s next government remains a mystery this week as the four-party coalition negotiations, spearheaded by the Left-Green Coalition or VG, led by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, were unable to reach an agreement.
The talks between VG and the Social Democratic Alliance, the Pirate Party and the Progressive Party may have resulted in the first left-wing government in the country since the administration of Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir concluded in 2013. However, had the talks been successful, the result would have been a configuration of 32 seats, a paper-thin majority in a parliament of sixty-three seats, (and a similar number to the ill-fated previous government which collapsed earlier this year).
Bringing in a potential fifth party in order to bolster the seat count was seen as unviable, especially by the Progressives. Þorgerður Katrin Gunnarsdóttir, chair of the Reform / Regeneration Party, which was not invited to the coalition talks, suggested [In Icelandic] that the party would be willing to support a centre-left coalition on important issues, but not on matters related to proposed tax hikes on Iceland’s higher-income earners.
This arrangement was seemingly too much to ask for as far as the Progressives, led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, were concerned, and reportedly it was their decision to withdraw from the talks out of concern [In Icelandic] that the new government would be just as fragile and short-lived as the previous one. Possibly not helping matters were statements [In Icelandic] made this week by Pirate Party MP Björn Leví Gunnarsson, who made public and online comments suggesting that there was the assumption that the next government would be in a minority position, and that he would not necessarily support every initiative a new coalition government would bring forward.
What happens next is unclear, as Ms Jakobsdóttir had originally stated that she was not seeking to hand back the mandate to the President’s office until other options have been considered, but later today the mandate was returned [In Icelandic]. Two possible routes would be to attempt to form a ‘grand coalition’ with VG, the Independence Party (IP), led by current PM Bjarni Benediktsson, and the Progressive Party. Failing that, the mandate might pass to Mr Benediktsson, who might seek to piece together an IP-led coalition, resulting in still another centre-right government.
[The author wishes to thank Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson for his assistance in the researching of this post.]