REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) – Icelanders voted on Saturday in a climate change-dominated parliamentary election in which an unprecedented number of political parties are likely to win parliamentary seats.
Polls suggest there will be no clear winner, which will trigger complex negotiations to form a coalition government.
A record nine parties could break the 5% threshold required to qualify for seats in Iceland’s parliament, the Althing. Up-and-coming parties include the Socialist Party, which promises to shorten the working week and nationalize Iceland’s fishing industry.
A high turnout is expected, as one fifth of those eligible to vote have already cast postal votes.
Climate change is very popular with voters in Iceland, a volcanic island state with around 350,000 inhabitants in the North Atlantic, strewn with glaciers.
An exceptionally warm summer by Icelandic standards – 59 days with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius – and shrinking glaciers helped put global warming on the political agenda.
Polls show strong support for left-wing parties who promise to cut carbon emissions by more than Iceland has already pledged under the Paris Agreement. The country is committed to becoming climate neutral by 2040, a decade ahead of most other European nations.
The current government is a coalition of three parties, spanning the political spectrum from left to center-right, led by Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir of the Left Green Party. It was founded in 2017 after years of political instability.
Jakobsdottir remains a popular prime minister, but polls suggest her party may do poorly and end the current coalition.
“The country faces big decisions as we turn away from the pandemic,” Jakobsdottir said during a televised debate on Friday night in which party leaders pledged to end Iceland’s dependence on oil and many wanted to raise taxes on the rich.
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