The political earthquake following the Panama stories last week seems to have been a cause for Icelandic voters to reconsider whom to trust: indicative increase for the Independence party and the Left Green, dwindling support for the Pirate party, the first since their support started going up a year ago and a further decline for the Progressive party.
According to a new Gallup poll April 7-12 nearly 27% say they would vote for the Independence party, a sizeable jump from 22% only last week. The other winner is the Left Green, with nearly 20%, up from 17% last week, the party’s strongest outcome since September 2010.
The Pirate party has fallen below 30%, first time in a year, now at 29.5%. The Progressive party, now leading the government and still under the leadership of ex PM on-leave Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, faces a disaster, with just under 7%, their lowest point since February 2008. The Social democrats have cause for further tears in their pillow, scoring only 9%.
The Progressives lose voters over to the Independence party reversing the flow in the 2013 election when many Independence party voters chose to cast their favour on the Progressives. Earlier Pirate supporters are now turning to the Left Green. The Social democrats can feel very disappointed that the Left Green are establishing themselves as the major left force, stealing the earlier force from the Social democrats.
Given that there will be an election in autumn – no date set yet – it is still possible that the Pirates might be the largest party but the Independence party could possibly be gathering its earlier strength when it could normally rely on ca. 30% of voters. With the Left Green at these levels the Pirates might turn to them, if the Pirates got the chance to form a government.
However, given the Left Green’s propensity for internal tension and turf wars, which so spectacularly weakened the Social democratic-led coalition of 2009 to 2013, it would be a weak government unless it had a strong majority.
Given the decimation of the Progressives Independence party leader Bjarni Benediktsson has good reasons to feel quietly content: after all, his name is in the Panama documents and his answers have not been entirely clear and forthcoming.
The Progressive’s outcome is bad news for the party, given that Gunnlaugsson has half-left the scene and will no doubt strengthen the feeling that he should leave as a leader, giving space for new forces. The latest addition to the government, minister of foreign affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir who is not an MP, is already being talked about as a possibly contender for the party’s leadership.
The upswing from ca. 12% to the 2013 election’s outcome of nearly 25% that Gunnlaugsson created in only a few months never looked sustainable, built as it was on false promises. The election outcome was an anomaly for the Progressives: in the last few elections they have been around 12%. A new leader who could bring the party to that level would be doing well as ca. 10% would perhaps be a more realistic expectation.
Given the volatility of Icelandic voters it’s difficult to gauge the directions but for the time being it seems to fit the national mood that Pirates are doing well, but among the old parties the Independence party and the Left Green are the main leaders. However, the Panama documents or some other unforeseen circumstances could still upset that balance and autumn is months away.
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