Election Date Set as Icelandic Pirates Hold Primaries

Election Date Set as Icelandic Pirates Hold Primaries

After much anticipation, the Icelandic coalition partners have announced the date of the early election to be held this autumn as 29 October 2016. The Prime Minister, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, who only assumed the office in April, met with opposition party leaders before making his announcement, who reportedly approved the date. Sigurður did offer the caveat that “Judging by how matters progressed in parliament this spring and summer, we expect that that will happen.”

The coalition government had been reluctant to set a date for the election, as they still had a number of pieces of legislation they wished to pass. As late as 10 August, the agriculture and fishing minister told RÚV Radio: “Let’s make it clear that as soon as we have a set date, that gives the opposition a certain weapon; then it can hold parliament hostage and determine exactly what resolutions will pass in parliament. It can, in fact dictate the schedule with a filibuster or demands. That’s the reason we can’t set the date ahead of time.” He said there were over 50 individual pieces of legislation waiting to be passed.

This means the political campaigning can now enter full swing. The three most recent polls have put the Pirate Party as almost neck and neck with the Independence Party, one of the two current coalition partners. The most recent Gallup poll, from 29 July, put the Pirate Party in second place on 25.3%, and Independence in first with 26.2%. With current polling, a possible result could be a three-way coalition between the Pirate Party, the Left-Green Movement and the Social Democratic Alliance. Support for the other coalition partner, the Progressive Party, has collapsed since Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson resigned as Prime Minister in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations. Another interesting development is the rise of new party Viðreisn, which split from the Independence Party, and may attract votes from Icelanders on the right. It is currently polling around 9%.

Based on the 2013 results, with 25% support the Pirate Party is likely to win just under 20 seats, out of the 63 seats up for election in the parliament. In readiness for the election, the party is holding primaries to select the candidates in each constituency. In the primaries, 17 candidates are hoping to stand in the South Constituency, 24 in the North Constituency, and 102 across the capital’s four constituencies, which adds up to 143 people vying to be Pirate Party candidates in total. Already, the results are in from the primary in the South Constituency, with party co-founder Smári McCarthy topping the list. The primaries in the capital constituencies ends on 12 August, and the primary in the North Constituency ends on 15 August. Within a few months, these people will almost certainly be part of the largest party in the Icelandic parliament, no small achievement.

Editors note: 29 October 2016 is the tentative date set but it’s still not formal. The current government demands that some legislation be passed for the election to happen at that date. Thus, if you book a trip to Iceland – to be part of the historic event – make sure it’s a refundable or changeable flight since the date may still change.

Featured image by Democracy Chronicles, CC-BY 2.0.