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Old hands set to lead Iceland’s politics

Sun., April 28, 2013

REYKJAVIK, Iceland - Five years after Iceland’s economic collapse, early returns signaled that voters are favoring the return of a center-right, Euro-sceptic government, widely blamed for the nation’s financial woes.

Ousting the incumbent, liberal Social Democrat/Left Green coalition, Icelanders appear to be opting for the conservative Independence Party.

With 33 percent of the vote counted, the seats in Parliament, according to Icelandic television network RUV, the Independence Party would have 20 seats; the Progressive Party 9 seats; the Left-Greens, 9 seats; the Social Democrats 9 seats; and Bright Future 6 seats.

“We are very happy, we are very grateful for the support that we see in the numbers,” Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson said.

The likely shift to the right following Saturday’s parliamentary election would almost certainly shelve Iceland’s plans to join the European Union, with which it has begun accession talks. Both Progressives and Independents oppose joining the 27-nation bloc.

Progressive Party chief Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and Benediktsson were the two most likely candidates for prime minister under the system of proportional representation used for elections to Iceland’s 63-seat parliament, the Althingi.

The two parties governed Iceland for several decades, often in coalition, overseeing economic liberalization that spurred a banking and business boom until Iceland’s economy crashed spectacularly during the 2008 credit crisis.


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