Iceland election: Ruling bloc facing defeat

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir

Voters in Iceland are going to the polls in elections expected to oust the governing centre-left coalition. Analysts predict that two centre-right parties will be able to form a new cabinet, pledging to soften unpopular austerity policies.

This would mark a dramatic comeback for the centre-right, which was widely blamed for Iceland’s near-economic collapse in 2008. Their victory could also halt the island nation’s EU membership talks.

Polls opened at 09:00 GMT and are due to close at 22:00 GMT, with more than 230,000 voters eligible to cast their ballots. The conservative Independence Party and their traditional coalition partners the Progressives are expected to secure a majority in the 63-strong parliament.

The parties’ leaders, Bjarni Benediktsson and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, are then predicted to compete in a race to succeed the Social Democrat Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is retiring from politics.

Opinion polls suggest the main governing Social Democratic Alliance will suffer a heavy defeat. Many Icelanders are frustrated with the current government, saying that its austerity policies are too painful. This is despite the fact that Iceland has seen steady growth in recent years amid falling unemployment rates.

“We are seeing a record swing in Iceland politics and actually the polls are showing that the two government parties will be losing half of their following from 2009,” Prof Olafur Hardarson of the University of Iceland told BBC News.

The centre-right camp is promising debt relief and a cut in taxes. The two parties are also seen as Eurosceptic, and their poll success could slow down Iceland’s efforts to become a member of the EU. The Eurosceptics argue that Iceland already gets most of the benefits of full membership through existing free trade arrangements with the EU and by being part the Schengen visa-free travel zone.

First election results are expected shortly after the polls close. (BBC)

*** Islanda vota per rinnovare il Parlamento ***

Islandesi al voto oggi per le elezioni legislative. Favorita, secondo i sondaggi, l’opposizione di centrodestra contraria all’adesione all’Ue. Ma al di la’ di quale scenario politico verra’ fuori dalle urne l’isola avra’ in ogni caso un nuovo primo ministro visto che il premier uscente, la socialdemocratica Johanna Sigurdardottir, 70 anni, ha annunciato di ritirarsi dalla vita politica. Il suo programma ha permesso all’Islanda di uscire dalla recessione ma non e’ piaciuto agli islandesi.