North Atlantic island of 371,000 citizens have seen a period of stability since 2017 under the ruling left-right coalition, after years of political scandals and distrust of politicians after the 2008 financial crisis.
The current governing coalition led by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s left-green movement won its mandate on a promise to ensure stability after Icelanders went to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.
In 2017, the Left-Greens, who call themselves a “radical left party”, collaborated with unlikely partners – the pro-business independence party and the center-right Progressive Party – to some anger in the party’s grassroots.
Although Jakobsdóttir is still popular, surveys suggest that her party will lose support, marking the end of her coalition. Support for the Independence Party, Iceland’s largest party, is also declining, but the election result may still give former Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson a mandate to form a new government.
A shattered political landscape will make it difficult to form a new government, but Jakobsdóttir can seek a coalition with other left-wing parties that opinion polls suggest will be supported.
“If we get such a government, we will see some changes in terms of taxation of the rich, and environmental issues will become more important,” says Baldvin Bergsson, political analyst at RUV.
Climate change is an important issue for Icelanders, who like to call their nation “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of its second worldly landscape of volcanoes and glaciers used in the HBO TV series “Game of Thrones”.
Iceland has already promised to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, far ahead of most other European nations, but especially younger voters are pushing for even bolder steps.
The left-wing parties are also calling for more government spending on healthcare, which has been the most important topic in the election.
Successful weathering of the pandemic and the lifting of coronavirus restrictions have reopened borders, providing a much-needed boost to the important tourism sector, which attracted around 2 million foreign visitors in 2019.
“The pandemic was a major blow to the important tourism industry,” says Stefania Oskarsdottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, adding that high public spending has given optimism.
“Even though he has come out of a deep recession, the average Icelander feels that these are good times,” she said.
Polls open at 4:00 PM EST on Saturday and close at 5:00 PM EST with a final result expected on Sunday morning.