A Guide to the Parties in Iceland’s Nail-Biter Election

Iceland's president and prime ministerm Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson and Bjarni Benediktsson, in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Sept. 16, 2017.

Photographer: Haraldur Gudjonsson/AFP/Getty Images

Iceland’s ruling Independence Party, which in September called a snap election amid public outrage over a pedophile scandal, is in a tight race with the Left Green Movement ahead of Saturday’s vote. After trailing for much of the campaign, the latest polls show the party of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson now ahead by less than 2 percentage points in the nation’s third parliamentary election in four years.

There are a dozen parties competing, although no more than nine of them have a realistic chance of gaining seats in the 63-seat Althing, Iceland’s parliament. The winner of the most seats will likely be asked to form a coalition.

Seats are spread across six constituencies and are assigned using proportional representation. Parties that receive at least 5 percent of the national vote are eligible for so-called "adjustment seats." Mandates last 4 years.

Here’s a brief outline of the biggest parties’ leaders, policy priorities and number of seats won in 2016:

Independence Party

  • Seats: 21
  • Origin: formed in 1929 to advocate independence from Denmark
  • Leader: Bjarni Benediktsson (outgoing prime minister)
  • Ideology: conservative/center-right
  • Campaign priorities: reduce national debt; boost growth by cutting red tape and lowering taxes on individuals and businesses; opposed to higher fishing quota fees
  • EU membership: against

Left Green Movement

  • Seats: 10
  • Origin: founded in 1999 by opponents of merger that led to Social Democratic Alliance
  • Leader: Katrin Jakobsdottir (former minister of education, science and culture)
  • Ideology: left-wing/environmentalism/feminism/pacifism
  • Campaign priorities: increase funding for infrastructure, health care and education; hike taxes for the rich; fishing quota reform; new constitution; reservations about free trade agreements; opposed to NATO membership
  • EU membership: against

Pirate Party

  • Seats: 10
  • Origin: founded in 2012 by internet activists to promote free speech and less stringent copyright laws
  • Leader: no formal leader -- Smari McCarthy, Einar Adalsteinsson and Einar Brynjolfsson act as spokespeople
  • Ideology: direct democracy
  • Campaign priorities: new constitution; crackdown on corruption; fishing quota reform
  • EU membership: neutral -- stance should be decided via referendum

Progressive Party

  • Seats: 8
  • Origin: founded in 1916 as a result of the merger of two farmers’ parties
  • Leader: Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson (former prime minister)
  • Ideology: conservative/centrist
  • Campaign priorities: increase spending on infrastructure and health care; support Icelandic agriculture; opposed to VAT hikes on tourism 
  • EU membership: against

Revival (Vidreisn)

  • Seats: 7 
  • Origin: founded in May 2016 following Independence Party split over EU and trade policies
  • Leader: Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir (outgoing minister of fisheries and agriculture)
  • Ideology: free market
  • Campaign priorities: equal education for all; higher taxes on tourism and on use of natural resources; fixed exchange rate; monetary reform
  • EU membership: in favor

Bright Future

  • Seats: 4
  • Origin: founded in 2012 by Progressive Party and Social Democratic Alliance defectors
  • Leader: Ottarr Proppe (musician, actor, former city councilor)
  • Ideology: social liberalism/centrist
  • Campaign priorities: new constitution; euro membership; sustainability tax on exploitation of natural resources
  • EU membership: in favor

Social Democratic Alliance

  • Seats: 3
  • Origin: founded in 2000 from merger of four left-wing parties
  • Leader: Logi Einarsson
  • Ideology: social-democratic
  • Campaign priorities: more funding for health care and education; new constitution; fishing quota reform; more progressive taxation
  • EU membership: in favor

Center Party:

  • Seats: -
  • Origin: founded in 2017 following a split in the Progressive Party
  • Leader: Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson (former prime minister)
  • Ideology: conservative/centrist
  • Campaign priorities: sell state shares in Islandbanki and Arion Bank; abolish indexation on loans
    EU membership: against

Peoples’ Party:

  • Seats: -
  • Origin: Founded in 2016 to defend interests of the disabled and poor
    Leader: Inga Saeland (former X-factor contestant)
  • Ideology: socialist
  • Campaign priorities: reduce taxes on lowest income; higher disability benefits and pensions; increase spending on health care; opposed to immigration
  • EU membership: against
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