REYKJAVIK – AFP-JIJI
Iceland’s Pirate Party, founded by anarchists, activists and former hackers, recorded a historic breakthrough in Saturday’s snap election as the government, rattled by the Panama Papers scandal, lost ground, according a TV poll.
It is, however, uncertain if the party will be able to form a majority with its center-left alliance, as partial results of six legislative districts show a tight race with the incumbent center-right government.
The negotiations could last for days or weeks if the Pirates-led alliance or the government do not gain the necessary 32 of the 63 seats in the Icelandic parliament, the Althingi.
In the latest wave in a global movement against mainstream politics, the Pirates won 12 seats, quadrupling their showing since 2013, according to the RUV state television predictions.
“We are very satisfied,” said Pirate cofounder Birgitta Jonsdottir, an activist, poet and WikiLeaks supporter.
“Whatever happens we have created a wave of change in the Icelandic society. The results are awesome,” she told a cheering crowd in Reykjavik.
The preliminary figures came after the polls closed at 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) and were greeted with applause by activists and “pirates” inside a bar in Reykjavik, crowded with tourists and foreign press.
“We are a platform for young people, for progressive people who shape and reshape our society … like Robin Hood because Robin Hood was a pirate, we want to take the power from the powerful to give it to the people,” Jonsdottir told AFP, referring to the legendary English outlaw.
“That’s amazing that so many people support us,” she said.
Founded in 2012, the Pirates, which won 15.5 percent of the vote, could for the first time form a coalition with three other leftist and centrist opposition parties, including the Left-Greens, the Social Democrats and the Bright Future Movement.
“I’m a bit disappointed so far but it’s still too early,” Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson of the ruling centrist Progressive Party told RUV.
According to the TV poll, the alliance claimed a total of 32 seats in parliament, with the Left-Green movement winning 11, the Social Democrats garnering five and the centrist Bright Movement taking four.
The election indicated a tight race between the center-right incumbent coalition and the Pirates-led alliance as the votes were being counted.
The election was triggered after former prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned in April, the first major public figure to fall from grace over the Panama Papers, which revealed that 600 Icelanders including Cabinet ministers, bankers and business leaders had holdings stashed away in tax havens.
The outgoing center-right coalition of the Independence Party and the Progress Party, which governed the island nation from 2013 up until now, only gained 25 seats, according to RUV.
Traditionally, the Icelandic president grants the leader of the winning party the right to negotiate on a coalition.
The Regeneration Party, which garnered seven seats according to RUV figures, could emerge as the kingmaker.
A fierce defender of public transparency and direct democracy, the Pirate Party has vowed to hold a referendum on resuming the nation’s stalled European Union membership talks.
It has also declared that health care is a basic human right and seeks to make it free of charge and accessible to everyone in Iceland, regardless of their residency status.
Iceland, a volcanic island with a population of 332,000, has returned to prosperity since its 2008 financial meltdown.
Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to be above 4 percent this year thanks to tourism revenues and a recovering financial system.
The crisis eight years ago saw Iceland’s three biggest banks and its oversized financial sector collapse, while the country was forced to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
A string of bankers were jailed, the failed banks were temporarily nationalized and then sold, and foreign investors had to accept write-downs on their debt holdings.
Advocating maximum public transparency, the Pirates want to open government accounts to the public.
“We want to drastically increase public access to information about government decision-making,” the party says in its manifesto
Olafur Hardarson, professor of political science at the University of Iceland, attributed the Pirates’ rise in popularity to voters’ anger at the 2008 crisis.
“They have managed to focus on the anti-politics and anti-establishment feelings of a lot of voters (who) have been frustrated in Iceland since the bank crash,” Hardarson told AFP.
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