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Iceland: Women MPs almost outnumber men for first time

September 26, 2021

Iceland briefly became the first European country where women would make up more than half of all lawmakers, or so the country thought until a recount. The ruling coalition has also secured enough votes to stay in power.

Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir speaks to reporters after casting her vote in the country's general election on Saturday
Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir's government gave Iceland's 360,000 people political stability for four yearsImage: Arni Torfason/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Following a recount of what many saw as a historic election just hours before, results showed that Iceland did not elect  its first female-majority parliament after all. 

Prior to the recount, the country celebrated what would have been the first first time in Icelandic and European politics, in which there were more women lawmakers than men in parliament. 

Some 33 women were voted into the 63-seat parliament, Icelandic public broadcaster RUV said earlier on Sunday. However, the recount indicated that women received just 30 seats. Still, at almost 28% of the total, the is the highest percentage for women lawmakers in Europe. 

The only other European country to come close is Sweden with 47% women lawmakers, according to data from the World Bank.

Icelandwould have joined the short list of countries where women outnumber men in parliament — including Rwanda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

One candidate who saw her victory overturned by the recount was law student Lenya Run Karim, a 21-year-old daughter of Kurdish
immigrants who ran for the anti-establishment Pirate Party.

"These were a good nine hours,'' said Karim, who would have been Iceland's youngest-ever lawmaker.

What were the election results?

Iceland's ruling coalition retained its majority in Saturday's elections even as Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir's party suffered losses.

It remains to be seen whether the three-party coalition that governed the island nation for the past four years will stick together. They said before the election that they would enter negotiations if they held on to their majority.

With all votes counted, Jakobsdottir's Left-Green Movement, the agrarian center-right Progressive Party, and the conservative Independence Party held 37 of the 63 seats in parliament.

Four years of stability

Jakobsdottir led the first government that completed a full term after a decade of crises.

The island nation held elections five times between 2007 and 2017 due to a series of scandals and deepening mistrust of politicians.

While the prime minister herself remains popular, her party has been losing support.

Eight parties are set to enter Iceland's 1,100-year-old parliament, the Althing, giving the parties numerous other coalition options.

People vote at a local sports complex in Kopavogur, Iceland
People cast their ballots at a local sports complex in Kopavogur, IcelandImage: Arni Torfason/AP Photo/picture alliance

Jakobsdottir's future as PM uncertain

The prime minister's Left-Green Movement lost three seats in parliament from the 11 it currently held.

"We will have to see how the governmental parties are doing together and how we are doing," Jakobsdottir told news agency AFP.

The Independence Party is set to remain the largest party with 16 seats, holding onto the same number as it had before.

Its leader and the country's current finance minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, is eyeing the prime minister's post.

"These numbers are good, (it's a) good start to the evening," he told public broadcaster RUV.

The center-right Progressives made the biggest gains and becoming the second-largest party in parliament, winning 13 seats, a big jump from its previous tally of 8.

ab, adi/rs (AFP, dpa)

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