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Iceland’s Pirates poll lower than expected in election
Published on 30-10-2016 - at 02:58' by Al Jazeera

Iceland looks likely to steer away from Pirate Party government, as voters favour the incumbent Independence Party.

Support for Iceland’s Pirate Party in parliamentary elections was lower than expected, making it less likely the anti-establishment party will be part of a new government, early results have showed.

On Sunday, with roughly half of votes counted from the previous day’s election, the Independence Party had about 30 percent of ballots and the Pirate Party about 14 percent, putting them in third place behind the Left-Green movement.

It was a worse result for the Pirates than some polls suggested, and a better performance than predicted for the Independents, who have governed as part of a coalition since 2013. Coalition governments are the norm in Iceland’s multi-party system.

It was not immediately clear whether the Independents would be able to assemble a coalition with other centrist and right-wing parties or whether the Pirates and other opposition forces would get the numbers to govern.

Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson said he was "extremely happy" with the early results.

He said that given the party’s strong showing, it would be "extremely hard to not include us" in the next government.

Saturday’s election was held amid widespread public discontent with Iceland’s traditional elites, with debate focusing on the economy and voters’ desire for political reform

It was called after then-Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned in April during public protests over his offshore holdings, revealed in the Panama Papers leak.

The tax-avoidance scandal outraged many Icelanders, who suffered years of economic upheaval after the country’s debt-swollen banks collapsed during the 2008 global financial crisis.

The chief victim of voters’ wrath was Gunnlaugsson’s Progressive Party, which looked set to lose more than half its seats.

A kingmaker in government negotiations could be Vidreisn, or Renewal, liberal party formed this year that advocates Iceland joining the European Union. It looks set to gain a handful of parliament seats.

The Pirate Party, founded four years ago by an assortment of hackers, political activists and Internet freedom advocates, drew international attention as its support surged among Icelanders fed up with established parties after years of financial turmoil and political scandal.

Some polls had given the Pirates the support of a fifth of voters, potentially poised to become the biggest group in the volcanic island nation’s parliament, the Althingi.

Pirate cofounder Birgitta Jonsdottir said the early results were in line with the party’s own prediction of between 12 and 15 percent up from the 5 percent it secured in 2013.

READ MORE: Panama Papers - Iceland names new PM amid poll calls

"If we get more than 15 percent, we will be deeply thankful," she said.

"We’re just amazed that we’ll possibly maybe triple our following from last time, and it’s only three years."

The Pirates campaigned on promises to introduce direct democracy, subject the workings of government to more scrutiny and place the country’s natural resources under public ownership

The party also seeks tough rules to protect individuals from online intrusion.

Jonsdottir, the Pirates’ most prominent voice, is a former ally of WikiLeaks who has called on Iceland to offer citizenship to US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Opponents claim the inexperienced Pirates could scare off investors and destabilize an economy that is now recovering, with low unemployment and high growth.

A wind-lashed volcanic island near the Arctic Circle with a population of 320,000, Iceland has become known in recent years for large street protests that ousted one government after the 2008 financial crash and dispatched another in April.


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