Katrín Jakobsdóttir became prime minister of Iceland on November 30 after her Left-Green Movement completed a coalition deal with the Independence and Progressive parties.
Jakobsdóttir is Iceland’s second female prime minister after Johanna Siguroardottir, who served from 2009 to 2012 and was the world’s first openly lesbian head of government.
As opposition leader and leader of the Left-Green Movement, Jakobsdóttir led her party to a second-place finish in the parliamentary elections on October 28 by campaigning on a platform of restoring trust in government and utilizing an economic boom to increase public spending. Left-Greens began negotiations with the Independence and Progressive parties on November 16.
Former-Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, who is leader of the Independence Party that won the most seats in parliament, called this year’s snap election due to a personal scandal involving his father and a convicted paedophile. Icelandic media revealed that Benediktsson’s father wrote a letter of recommendation for Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson, a man convicted in 2004 of raping his step-daughter almost daily for 12 years from when she was five.
At the time, Iceland allowed convicts to regain certain civil rights with three letters of recommendations from persons of good character. Benediktsson’s government was accused of attempting to cover up the scandal after it refused to state who wrote the letter.
Following the revelations, a government ally dropped out of Benediktsson’s coalition, collapsing the government and prompting the snap election.
The new coalition has met mixed reviews. The Left-Greens voted on November 29 to accept the governmental agreement with 80 percent of the vote, yet some Left-Green members and voters have criticized the party’s plan to ally with the conservative and center-right parties. Two Left-Green MPs refused to support the coalition, leaving the government with 33 of 63 seats in the Althing, the Icelandic parliament.
However, the broad coalition between the left-leaning Left-Green Party and the right-leaning Independence and Progressive parties could end the political instability rocking Iceland. A string of scandals that began with the discovery of multiple government figures involved in tax havens after the release of the Panama Papers has left Iceland politically unstable. The last snap election was held in 2016 as a response to that scandal.
“It’s a very interesting moment actually in Icelandic political history because these three parties are very different,” Jakobsdóttir said. The parties agree that the government needs to invest in welfare, infrastructure, and tourism, which helped the island nation recover from the 2008 financial crisis that severely weakened its economy.
Nevertheless, the parties disagree on how to raise such funds, with the Left-Greens pushing for raising taxes on the wealthy, real estate, and the fishing industry, while the Independence Party wants to take the funds out of the banking sector.
According to the government, five cabinet ministers come from the Independence Party, three from the Left-Green Movement, and three from the Progressive Party. The new government intends to “establish a new tone” by “concentrating on key projects bringing Iceland into the front rank and making Iceland a good place to live.”