Iceland voters head to polls amid scandals
Twelve parties vying for Parliament seats with alliances shifting
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — As Iceland headed to the polls Saturday to vote for members of one of the oldest Parliaments in the world, the shadow of political scandal clung to the political landscape, fomenting voter distrust and disgust.
The scandals have run the gamut, from accusations of a cover-up of a letter of recommendation written by a prime minister’s father on behalf of a convicted pedophile, to the fall of another prime minister who was forced out because of his family’s ties to the Panama Papers.
Both episodes led to the collapse of the government.
Twelve parties are competing for seats in the 63-seat Parliament, the Althing, established in A.D. 930.
Polls show the ruling centerright Independence Party is neck and neck with the Left Green Movement, which is offering Katrin Jakobsdottir as a candidate for prime minister.
If the environmentalist Left Greens triumph, Jakobsdottir would be the fourth prime minister in less than two years.
In this crowded mix, a dark horse has appeared: the former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. He was driven from office in April 2016 when he became the first major casualty of the leaked Panama Papers. They revealed that he and his wife had set up a company in the British Virgin Islands.
Gunnlaugsson ditched his old party, the Progressives, and formed the Center Party, a populist outfit promising to squeeze the financial sector and redistribute the wealth. He’s hoping his party does well enough to become part of the governing coalition, political observers say.
Some experts say it will take a rickety coalition of as many as four parties to form a new government. If the Left Greens win, Gunnlaugsson would be an unlikely coalition partner. They appear to be more open to teaming with a revived Social Democrat Party and, potentially, the Pirate Party — a nerdy group of futurists, hackers, anarchists and poets.
Among the notable parties in the current race is Bright Future, known as a group of idealistic hipsters who say they shun the idea of becoming career politicians. But the party is on course to lose most, if not all, of its seats, polls suggest.