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Center-right party leads in Iceland national election

The ruling center-right Independence Party is leading the radical Pirate Party with the biggest share of votes in early results from Iceland’s national election

The Independence Party had about 30% of the ballots cast and the Pirates about 13%, with a quarter of votes counted.

The hacker-founded Pirate Party, a political “Robin Hood” group, seemed poised to take hold of Iceland’s government as voters headed to the polls Saturday, but the Independence Party, which has governed in a coalition since 2013, performed better-than-expected.

When votes began to be tallied at 4 p.m. ET, all eyes were on the Nordic nation’s Pirate Party — led by a former WikiLeaks worker — that has captured the populist movement sweeping Europe. Iceland’s economy collapsed after the 2008 financial crisis, and in April the prime minister resigned after being named in the Panama Papers scandal.

“We stand for enacting changes that have to do with reforming the systems, rather than changing minor things that might easily be changed back,” said Birgitta Jónsdóttir, 49, the party’s leader and self-described “poetician.” “We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems. In other words, we consider ourselves hackers.”

As attention focused on Jónsdóttir on Saturday, the Iceland Monitor reportedshe was being followed by more than 40 members of the international media awaiting election results.

The party’s headquarters in the capital Reykjavík is in a building appropriately called Tortuga — a reference to the former Caribbean pirate stronghold off the coast of Haiti. The group’s official logo is a black Viking sail.

“We want to be the Robin Hood of power: We want to take away the power from the powerful and give it to the general public of Iceland,” Jónsdóttir said.

A poll this week by research firm MMR had the ruling center-right Independence Party with a slight lead over the Pirate Party. But an Oct. 19 poll by the University of Iceland put the Pirate Party marginally ahead of the Independence Party, which has been the dominant political force in Iceland for decades.

If the Pirate Party succeeds Saturday, it could form a new coalition government in the country’s parliament — or cooperate with three leftist parties: the Left-Greens, the Social Democrats and the Bright Future Movement.

Katríin Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Green movement, told the Guardian the parties have significant overlap in common issues. The Pirates indicated they would not enter into governments with the two ruling parties; the Independence party or Progressive Party.

With a population of more than 330,000 and 245,000 eligible voters, early estimates put voter turnout somewhere around 80%.

 

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