Iceland elects Europe's first female-majority legislature

Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir and Ott Ummelas, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Iceland elected Europe’s first female-majority legislature in a ballot where the centrist ruling coalition added to its majority after steering the nation through the pandemic.

Some 33 of 63 seats, or 52%, in Iceland’s parliament, the Althingi, were won by women in Saturday’s ballot.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s bloc, which unites three parties from left to right, boosted its representation by two to a combined 37, according to the public broadcaster RUV.

Predictions failed to pan out that Jakobsdottir’s coalition would struggle in the face of calls from the left for higher health care spending and worries over climate change in the North Atlantic island nation.

Instead, the grouping won a fresh endorsement from voters after getting the Iceland’s tourism-dependent economy through a pandemic-induced slump.

The ruling parties signaled the current set-up is likely to continue, even as they stopped short of clear commitments in their first post-election comments.

“We all said before the elections that if the government would hold its majority it would be normal to have talks,” Jakobsdottir said on Sunday in RUV broadcast. “Nothing has changed there.”

Finance Minister and former premier Bjarni Benediktsson, who leads the conservative Independence Party, said he won’t be seeking the premiership even as his party maintained the biggest presence in parliament.


The land of fire and ice, which provided many of the stunning backdrops to “Game of Thrones,” has sought to diversify its economy to avoid the repeat of recent boom-bust cycles.

Tourism soared in the past decade to become Iceland’s growth engine after the 2008 global financial crisis triggered a collapse of the country’s outsized banking sector. But tourists were kept out of the country for several months by the coronavirus pandemic.

Iceland is the only Nordic country that hasn’t bounced back to pre-crisis levels of activity after its economy plunged 6.6% in 2020. The $23 billion economy is seen growing 4% this year, according to the central bank.

As in neighboring Norway, which also held elections this month, concerns over global warming emerged as a campaign theme, yet similarly failed to make a significant dent in the result.

The anti-establishment Pirate Party, which seeks carbon neutrality for Iceland by 2035, five years ahead of schedule, probably won’t add to its mandate, while the Social Democrats are set to see a decline.

While Jakobsdottir’s Left Green Movement lost three seats in parliament and Benediktsson’s party kept the number of its mandates, the third coalition partner — the agrarian Progressive Party — was the clear winner.

“We have a policy of keeping economic stability and continue improvements without extremes and upheavals,” said Progressive Party chairman and former premier Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson. “I feel like those views have won in these elections and are part of my party’s great victory.“

©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.