31 Oct 2016

Pirate Party triples share of Icelandic vote

7:36 am on 31 October 2016

Iceland's Pirate Party has tripled its share of the vote in the country's elections.

The party, founded by a group of internet activists, has 10 seats in the 63-seat parliament, in joint second place with the Left-Greens.

 Pirate Party co-founder Birgitta Jonsdottir, centre, reacts as the election results are announced.

Pirate Party co-founder Birgitta Jonsdottir Photo: AFP

But Iceland's centre-right Independence Party emerged as the leading party in yesterday's general election and will try to form the country's next government in what are expected to be complex negotiations.

The governing Progressive Party lost more than half of its seats in the poll triggered by the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in April. He stepped down in the wake of the leaked Panama Papers which revealed offshore assets of high-profile figures

Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson

Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson Photo: AFP

The Independence Party - the Progressives' junior partner - has come top with 21 seats and said it would try to form the next government.

Independence leader and current Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said he would prefer to form a three-party coalition but declined to say with whom.

No party has won an outright majority, and President Gudni Johannesson has yet to hand the mandate to the party that will be tasked with forming the next government.

Current Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, who resigned on Sunday, said it would be "natural" for the president to look to the Independence Party.

Thousands of Icelanders rallying in Reykjavik on April 9 to demand immediate elections on a sixth consecutive day of anti-government protests over the "Panama Papers" revelations, which caused the Prime Minister's resignation.

Thousands of Icelanders rallying in Reykjavik on 9 April to demand immediate elections, following anti-government protests over the Panama Papers revelations. Photo: AFP

The anti-establishment Pirate Party, which was founded in 2012, had said it could be looking to form a coalition with three left-wing and centrist parties.

The Independence Party and the Pirates have ruled out working together, although correspondents say this could change as negotiations take place in the coming days.

Pirate Party founder and MP Birgitta Jonsdottir said she was "very satisfied" with the result.

"Our internal predictions showed 10 to 15 percent, so this is at the top of the range. We knew that we would never get 30 percent," Ms Jonsdottir said.

The party won support from many in the wake of Iceland's 2008 financial crisis and the Panama Papers' revelations earlier this year.

The Pirate Party has called for more political transparency and accountability, free health care, closing tax loopholes and more protection of citizens' data.

Opponents, however, say the Pirate Party's lack of political experience could scare off investors and destabilise Iceland's recovering economy.

In a tight race, the newly-established Vidreisn (Reform) Party, could become kingmaker. The pro-European, liberal party which won around 10 percent of votes in its first election has not yet taken sides.

- Reuters / BBC

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