Iceland Election Opens Path to Power for Charismatic Leftist


Iceland’s election delivered a path to power for the nation’s charismatic left-wing leader, Katrin Jakobsdottir, after a spate of scandals soured voters on the ruling conservatives.
Saturday’s vote handed a potential center-left coalition a narrow majority, making the Left Green leader the most likely to get the nod to form a government, according to Stefanía Oskarsdottir, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Iceland. The 41-year-old is popular, with a recent poll showing one in two voters want her as the premier.
She has “more options” than Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, Oskarsdottir said.
Katrin Jakobsdottir
Photographer: Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
With a program calling for tax increases on the wealthy, Jakobsdottir would represent a shift from the former government which collapsed last month amid a controversy over granting clemency to a convicted child molester. The election comes at a crucial time for Iceland’s economy, which is showing signs of a slowdown after tourism-led boom.
Jakobsdottir’s focus on inequality could make her the latest young politician to vault to power after the recent wins of Emmanuel Macron, Leo Varadkar, Sebastian Kurz and Jacinda Ardern, who are all in their 30s. She also wants to use dividends from the banks to rebuild infrastructure or reduce public debt, make Iceland carbon neutral and boost public spending on health and education.

The key for either party will be the Progressives, an agrarian center-right party that has been drifting more to the left under its leader, former Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, according to Oskarsdottir. “He has positioned himself and the party as a social party,” she said. “That is how he has liked to define the party.” 
She would also need the backing of the long suffering Social Democrats, which doubled their backing, as well as the Pirate Party.
Party leaders all said new thinking was now needed to head off more instability, with Jakobsdottir opening up for a potential minority government. Benediktsson called the situation unprecedented and urged everyone to be broad-minded.
“It’s important in politics to create a broader togetherness and approach this with a another way we have done before and I think that is an exciting challenge,” Jakobsdottir said in a RUV broadcast Sunday.
President Gudni Th. Johannesson will now likely summon the party leaders on Monday before he decides on a mandate. Last year after an election triggered by a scandal involving the Panama Papers it took almost two months before the Independence Party emerged with a coalition.
But don’t expect Benediktsson to go down without a fight. He said on Sunday that it was natural that he get the nod to form a government after his group held on as the largest party.
Iceland Election Opens Path to Power for Charismatic Leftist Iceland Election Opens Path to Power for Charismatic Leftist Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 09:32:00 Rating: 5