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Left-Green Movement to lead new government in Iceland

Friday, 1 December, 2017 - 17:34

The leader of Iceland’s Left-Green Movement is to become the country’s new prime minister after coming to an agreement with the Centre-right Independence party and the populist Progressives. The new government was unveiled at a press conference at the National Gallery of Iceland on Thursday morning. Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old former education minister will become the Nordic island nation’s second female leader after Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was also the world’s first openly lesbian head of state.

The Left-Greens came second to the Independence Party of outgoing prime minister Bjarni Benediktsson in the elections but was able to form a left-led coalition when the scandal-plagued Independence lost a quarter of its seats. October’s general election was the fourth in the last four years in a country that experienced a banking collapse during the financial crash of 2008 and the resignation of a previous prime minister when it was revealed in the Panama Papers leaks that his family had money stashed in offshore tax havens. The previous government folded when it came to light that Benediktsson’s father wrote a letter recommending that a convicted paedophile have his “honour restored” – a provision in Icelandic law that allows for criminals to have their civil rights restored if they are vouched for by three citizens of good character.

At Thursday’s press conference it was announced that the Left-Green Movement will receive the ministries of Health and the Environment, while the Independence Party will take on the portfolios of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Justice. The Progressive Party will head the ministries of Industry, Fishing, Tourism and Agriculture. Jakobsdottir said her government will focus on equality between the sexes and LGBT rights, and committed Iceland to taking in more refugees.

Keeping the coalition of such ideologically distinct parties together will pose a challenge – no three party government has survived its full mandate in Iceland before. “It’s a very interesting moment actually in Icelandic political history because these three parties are very different,” Jakobsdottir told the AFP news agency.