Icelandic parliamentary election, 2009

Icelandic parliamentary election, 2009
25 April 2009

All 63 seats to the Althing
32 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 85.1%
  First party Second party
Leader Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir Bjarni Benediktsson
Party Social Democratic Independence
Leader since 28 March 2009 29 March 2009
Last election 18 seats, 26.8% 25 seats, 36.6%
Seats won
20 / 63
16 / 63
Seat change Increase 2 Decrease9
Popular vote 55,758 44,369
Percentage 29.8% 23.7%
Swing Increase3.0% Decrease12.9%

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Steingrímur J. Sigfússon Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Party Left-Green Progressive
Leader since 6 February 1999 18 January 2009
Last election 9 seats, 14.3% 7 seats, 11.7%
Seats won
14 / 63
9 / 63
Seat change Increase5 Increase2
Popular vote 40,580 27,699
Percentage 21.7% 14.8%
Swing Increase7.4% Increase3.1%

Prime Minister before election

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Social Democratic

Elected Prime Minister

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Social Democratic

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

A parliamentary election was held in Iceland on 25 April 2009[1] following strong pressure from the public as a result of the Icelandic financial crisis.[2] The Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, which formed the outgoing coalition government under Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, both made gains and formed an overall majority of seats in the Althing (Iceland's parliament). The Progressive Party also made gains, and the new Citizens' Movement, formed after the January 2009 protests, gained four seats. The big loser was the Independence Party, which had been in power for 18 years until January 2009: it lost a third of its support and nine seats in the Althing.


There had been weekly protests in front of the Althing since the collapse of Iceland's three commercial banks in October 2008. These protests intensified with the return of the Althing from Christmas recess on 20 January 2009.[3] Three days later, Prime Minister Geir Haarde of the Independence Party announced that he was withdrawing from politics for health reasons (he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer), and promised early elections for 9 May. However, the Independence Party wished to retain the Prime Minister's post, which proved unacceptable to their coalition partners the Social Democratic Alliance: the government collapsed on 26 January 2009.[4]

After consultations with all the political parties represented in the Althing, the President asked the Social Democratic Alliance to form a new government. This proved to be a minority coalition with the Left-Green Movement, with the support of the Progressive Party and the Liberal Party, which was sworn in on 1 February.[5][6] Former Social Affairs Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Prime Minister.

The date of the elections was one of the agreements between the coalition partners. The Social Democrats preferred 9 May, while the Left-Greens wanted elections in early April: the intermediate position of the Progressive Party, 25 April, was adopted.[7] The three parties also agree to convene a constitutional assembly to discuss changes to the Constitution.[8] There was no agreement on the question of an early referendum on prospective EU membership, an issue which divided the coalition partners.[9]


The Progressive Party was the first of the historic parties to change leadership after the 2008 financial crisis, when Guðni Ágústsson resigned as both party leader and Althing member on 17 November 2008. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was elected party chairman on 18 January 2009, despite not being a member of the Althing at the time.[10] One of Sigmundur Davíð's first actions as party leader was to call for early elections and to offer the support of the party's seven Althing members to an interim coalition of the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement.[11]

Independence Party chairman Geir Haarde announced his retirement from politics on 23 January 2009, revealing that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer which required urgent treatment. He was succeeded by Bjarni Benediktsson at the party's convention on 29 March 2009.[12][13] The party also proposed to call for two referendums on the EU – one on starting entry talks (which could be held by summer 2010), and another on membership after negotiations are over.[14]

Social Democrat leader Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir had also been unwell since September 2008 with a benign brain tumour which had kept her out of the public eye for much of the financial crisis. Although initially she had planned to remain in control of the party while fellow Social Democrat Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir served as Prime Minister,[15] Ingibjörg Sólrún announced on 8 March 2009 that she could not guarantee that her health was good enough to continue to serve the public.[16] Jóhanna had previously stated she did not want to become party leader, but changed her mind in mid-March and announced she would stand for party leadership, citing strong encouragement from many party members as the reason.[17] She was elected, as expected, with a strong majority of 97% of the vote at the party congress of 27–29 March 2009.

Two new parties were formed in the aftermath of the January protests: the Citizens' Movement (Borgarahreyfingin) and the Democratic Movement (Lýðræðishreyfingin).[18] Both contested all six constituencies in the 2009 elections. A third new party, L-List of Sovereignty Supporters (L-listi fullveldissinna), withdrew its candidacy on 3 April.[19] The Icelandic Movement – Living Land (Íslandshreyfingin – lifandi land), which had unsuccessfully contested the 2007 election on a green platform, merged into the Social Democratic Alliance at the March 2009 party congress.[20]


Just a week before the election, the Independence Party announced that its party committee on Europe had decided to call for steps to adopt the euro as Iceland's currency (with the help of the IMF).[21] Shortly before the election, Johanna Sigurðardóttir stated that her priority, if returned to government, would be EU membership (she stated she was certain that there would be an agreement with the Left-Green Movement on EU membership), and she predicted that Iceland would adopt the euro within four years.[22] (see Iceland and the European Union).


There are 6 constituencies in Iceland. According to the Law on Parliamentary Elections (nr.24/2000), each constituency is granted 9 seats decided by proportional voting in the constituency, and finally 9 special Leveling seats (either 1 or 2 per constituency, depending on their population size) will work to adjust the result, so that proportionality is also ensured according to the overall number of party votes at the national level. The number of constituency seats shall however be adjusted ahead of the next election, if the fraction of residents with suffrage per available seat in the constituency became more than twice as big in the latest election, when comparing the constituency with the highest fraction against the one with the lowest fraction. In that case a constituency seat shall travel from the constituency with the lowest figure to the one with the highest figure, until the result of the equation comply with the rule. However, the total number of seats (including leveling seats) must never become less than six in any constituency.[23] The box below display the number of available seats in each constituency at the 2009 parliamentary election.[24]

Constituency Constituency seatsLeveling seatsTotal seats
Reykjavik Constituency North9211
Reykjavik Constituency South9211
Southwest Constituency10212
Northwest Constituency819
Northeast Constituency9110
South Constituency9110
Total 54963

Method for apportionment of constituency seats

The available constituency seats are first distributed to each party according to the D'Hondt method, so that proportional representation is ensured within each of the constituencies. The next step is to apportion these party distributed seats to the candidates within the party having the highest "vote score", after counting both direct candidate votes and their share of party votes in the constituency. In Iceland the "candidate vote system" is that, for each constituency, each party provides a pre-ranked list of candidates beneath each party name (listed according to the preferred order decided by the party), but where the voters voting for the party can alter this pre-ranked order by renumbering the individual candidates and/or crossing out those candidates they do not like, so that such candidates will not get a share of the voter's "personal vote" for the party.[24][25]

As a restriction on the possibility of re-ranking candidates, it is however only possible to alter the first several candidates on the list. The borderline for alterations is drawn for the first three candidates if the party only win one of the total seats in the constituency, or if more than one seat is won the borderline shall be drawn at the pre-ranked number equal to two times the total amount of seats being won by the party in the constituency. So if a party has won two seats in a constituency, then the voter is only allowed to re-rank the top four ranked candidates on the list, with any rank altering by voters below this line simply being ignored when subsequently calculating the candidate vote shares within each party. Final calculation of the candidate vote shares is always done according to the Borda method, where all candidates above the previously described borderline in the ranking are granted voting fraction values according to the voters noted rank. If the number of considered candidates consist of four (as in the given example), then the first ranked candidate is assigned a value of 1 (a so-called full personal vote), the next one get the value 0.75 (1/4 less), followed likewise by 0.50 and 0.25 respectively for the two last candidates. If the number of considered candidates instead had been six (due to winning 3 seats), then the first ranked candidate in a similar way would be assigned a value of 1 (a so-called full personal vote), with the following five candidates receiving respectively 5/6, 4/6, 3/6, 2/6 and 1/6. As mentioned above, crossed out names will always be allocated a 0.00 value. The accumulated total score of the candidates voting fractions, will be used in determining which candidates receive the seats won by their party. Note that candidate vote scores are not directly comparable to candidates from other parties, as how many seats are being won in a constituency by a particular party will effect how their candidates receive voting fractions (like in the above examples, where a candidate ranked number four for a party winning two seats would receive a voting fraction of 0.25, compared to 0.50 for an equally ranked candidate belonging to a party winning 3 seats)[24][25]

Method for apportionment of leveling seats

After the initial apportionment of constituency seats, all the parties that exceed the election threshold of 5% nationally will also qualify to potentially be granted the extra leveling seats, which seek to adjust the result towards seat proportionality at the national level.

The calculation procedure for the distribution of leveling seats is, first, for each party having exceeded the national threshold of 5%, to calculate the ratio of its total number of votes at the national level divided by the sum of one extra seat added to the number of seats the party have so far won. The first leveling seat will go to the party with the highest ratio of votes per seat. The same calculation process is then repeated, until all 9 leveling seats have been allocated to specific parties. It should be noted that a party's "votes per seat" ratio will change during this calculation process, after each additional leveling seat being won. The second and final step is for each party being granted a leveling seat to pin point, across all constituencies, which of its runner-up candidates (candidates that came short of winning direct election through a constituency seat) should then win this additional seat. This selection is made by first identifying the constituency having the strongest "relative constituency vote shares for this additional seat of the party", which is decided by another proportional calculation, where the "relative vote share for the party list in each constituency", is divided with the sum of "one extra seat added to the number of already won constituency seats by the party list in the constituency". When this strongest constituency has been identified, the leveling seat will be automatically granted to the highest placed unelected runner-up candidate on the party list in this constituency, who among the remaining candidates have the highest personal vote score (the same figure as the one used when ranking candidates for constituency seats).[24][25]

The above described method is used for apportionment of all the party allocated leveling seats. Note that when selecting which of a party's constituencies shall receive its apportioned leveling seat, this identification may only happen in exactly the same numerical order as the leveling seats were calculated at the party level. This is important because the number of available leveling seats are limited per constituency, meaning that the last calculated leveling seats in all circumstances can never be granted to candidates who belong to constituencies where the available leveling seats already were granted to other parties.[24][25]

Opinion polling

Party 2007 Result February 2009[26] 11–17 March 2009[27] late March 2009[28] 3 April 2009[29] 9 April 2009[30] 16 April 2009[30] 21 April 2009[31] 21–23 April 2009[32]
Independence Party 36.6% 25.8% 26.5% 29.1% 25.4% 25.7% 23.3% 27.3% 23.2%
Left-Green Movement 14.3% 24.1% 24.6% 25.8% 27.2% 26% 28.2% 25.7% 26.3%
Social Democratic Alliance 26.8% 27.7% 31.2% 31.7% 29.4% 32.6% 30.7% 32.2% 29.8%
Progressive Party 11.7% 15% 11.3% 7.5% 10.7% 9.8% 11.1% 6.8% 12.0%
Liberal Party 7.3% 2.5% 1.3% 1.8% 1.1% 2% 0.7% 1.5%
Citizens' Movement 2.5% 3.6% 4.4% 4.9% 6.8%
L-List of Sovereignty Supporters 1.9%
Democracy Movement 2.0% 0.5%


Summary of the 25 April 2009 Icelandic parliamentary election results
Party Chairperson(s) Votes % ± Seats ±
Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir 55,758 29.79 Increase 3.03 20 Increase 2
Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) Bjarni Benediktsson 44,371 23.70 Decrease 12.94 16 Decrease 9
Left-Green Movement (Vinstrihreyfingin - grænt framboð) Steingrímur J. Sigfússon 40,581 21.68 Increase 7.33 14 Increase 5
Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn) Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson 27,699 14.80 Increase 3.08 9 Increase 2
Citizens' Movement (Borgarahreyfingin) no designated chairperson 13,519 7.22 4
Liberal Party (Frjálslyndi flokkurinn) Guðjón Arnar Kristjánsson 4,148 2.22 Decrease 5.04 0 Decrease 4
Democracy Movement (Lýðræðishreyfingin) Ástþór Magnússon 1,107 0.59 0
Valid votes 187,183 96.50
Invalid votes 566 0.29
Blank votes 6,226 3.21
Total 193,975 100.00 63
Female electorate 114,269 50.15
Male electorate 113,574 49.85
Female turnout 98,013 85.77
Male turnout 95,962 84.49
Electorate/Turnout 227,843 85.14
Source: Statistics Iceland
Last election (2007)  Next election (2013)
Popular vote


Members of the Althing elected on 25 April 2009
Reykjavik Constituency North Reykjavik Constituency South Southwest Constituency Northwest Constituency Northeast Constituency South Constituency

1. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (S)
2. Katrín Jakobsdóttir (V)
3. Illugi Gunnarsson (D)
4. Helgi Hjörvar (S)
5. Árni Þór Sigurðsson (V)
6. Valgerður Bjarnadóttir (S)
7. Pétur H. Blöndal (D)
8. Sigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson (B)
9. Þráinn Bertelsson (O)

L3. Álfheiður Ingadóttir (V)
L4. Steinunn V. Óskarsdóttir (S)

1. Össur Skarphéðinsson (S)
2. Ólöf Nordal (D)
3. Svandís Svavarsdóttir (V)
4. Sigríður I. Ingadóttir (S)
5. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson (D)
6. Lilja Mósesdóttir (V)
7. Skúli Helgason (S)
8. Vigdís Hauksdóttir (B)
9. Birgitta Jónsdóttir (O)

L2. Ásta R. Jóhannesdóttir (S)
L5. Birgir Ármannsson (D)

1. Árni Páll Árnason (S)
2. Bjarni Benediktsson (D)
3. Guðfríður L. Grétarsdóttir (V)
4. Katrín Júlíusdóttir (S)
5. Þorgerður K. Gunnarsdóttir (D)
6. Siv Friðleifsdóttir (B)
7. Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir (S)
8. Ragnheiður Ríkharðsdóttir (D)
9. Þór Saari (O)
10.Ögmundur Jónasson (V)

L6. Magnús Orri Schram (S)
L9. Jón Gunnarsson (D)

1. Ásbjörn Óttarsson (D)
2. Jón Bjarnason (V)
3. Guðbjartur Hannesson (S)
4. Gunnar B. Sveinsson (B)
5. Einar K. Guðfinnsson (D)
6. Lilja R. Magnúsdóttir (V)
7. Ólína Þorvarðardóttir (S)
8. Guðmundur Steingrímsson (B)

L7. Ásmundur E. Daðason (V)

1. Steingrímur J. Sigfússon (V)
2. Birkir Jón Jónsson (B)
3. Kristján L. Möller (S)
4. Kristján Þór Júlíusson (D)
5. Þuríður Backman (V)
6. Höskuldur Þórhallsson (D)
7. Sigmundur E. Rúnarsson (S)
8. Björn Valur Gíslason (V)
9. Tryggvi Þór Herbertsson (D)

L8. Jónína R. Guðmundsdóttir (S)

1. Björgvin G. Sigurðsson (S)
2. Ragnheiður E. Árnadóttir (D)
3. Sigurður I. Jóhannsson (B)
4. Atli Gíslason (O)
5. Oddný G. Harðardóttir (S)
6. Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir (D)
7. Eygló Harðardóttir (B)
8. Róbert Marshall (S)
9. Árni Johnsen (D)

L1. Margrét Tryggvadóttir (O)

Key: S = Social Democratic Alliance; D = Independence Party; V = Left-Green Movement; B = Progressive Party; O = Citizens' Movement; L1-L9 = Leveling seats nr.1-9.
Source: Morgunblaðið[33] and Landskjörstjórn (The National Electoral Commission)[25]

For the parties having qualified with a national result above the 5% election threshold, the 9 leveling seats (L1-L9) were first distributed party-wise according to the calculation method in this particular order (where the party's total amount of national votes were divided by the sum of "won seats plus 1" - with an extra leveling seat granted to the party with the highest fraction - while repeating this process until all 9 leveling seats had been determined). At the next step, these leveling seats were then by the same order distributed one by one to the relative strongest constituency of the seat winning party (while disregarding the constituencies that already ran out of vacant leveling seats). At the third step, the specific leveling seat is finally granted to the party's highest ranked runner-up candidate within the constituency, according to the same accumulated candidate vote score as being used when apportioning the constituency seats.[25]

The table below display how the leveling seats were apportioned, and the "relative constituency strength" figures for each party, which is measured for each constituency as the "party vote share" divided by "won constituency seats of the party +1". To illustrate how the selection method works, each party in a constituency being apportioned a leveling seat, have got their figure for relative strength (vote share per seat) bolded in the table, with a parenthesis noting the number of the leveling seat. Due to the fact that constituencies run out of available leveling seats one by one as the calculation progress, it can sometimes happen that the constituency with the highest relative strength needs to be disregarded. In example, if there had been no restrictions to the available number of leveling seats in a constituency, then the table below would have distributed the Left-Green Movement's L3-seat to its relative strongest South Constituency with an 8.5574% vote share per seat; But as the one and only leveling seat of this constituency had already been granted to the Citizens Movement (who won the L1-seat), then the L3-seat instead had to be granted only to the second strongest constituency of the Left-Green Movement - namely the Reykjavik North constituency with an 8.0028% vote share per seat.[25]

Candidates selected for the 9 leveling seats
(L1-L9 are first apportioned at national level to parties,
then to the relative strongest constituency of the party,
and finally given to its highest ranked runner-up candidate)
Leveling seats
won by party
Reykjavik Constituency North
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
Reykjavik Constituency South
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
Southwest Constituency
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
Northwest Constituency
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
Northeast Constituency
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
South Constituency
(party vote share divided
by won local seats +1)
Social Democratic Alliance (S) L2+L4+L6+L8 8.2344% (L4)
6.5875%[lower-alpha 1]
8.2345% (L2)
6.5876%[lower-alpha 1]
8.0431% (L6)
6.4345%[lower-alpha 1]
7.5755% 7.5773% (L8) 6.9915%
Independence Party (D) L5+L9 7.1258%
3.2032%[lower-alpha 1]
7.7271% (L5)
3.2325%[lower-alpha 1]
6.9108% (L9)
3.8512%[lower-alpha 1]
7.6437% 5.8185% 6.5576%
Left-Green Movement (V) L3+L7 8.0028% (L3)
6.0021%[lower-alpha 1]
5.7212%[lower-alpha 1]
4.3493%[lower-alpha 1]
7.6077% (L7) 7.4215% 8.5574%
Progressive Party (B)
3.2032%[lower-alpha 1]
3.2325%[lower-alpha 1]
3.8512%[lower-alpha 1]
7.5111% 8.4232% 6.6630%
Citizens' Movement (O) L1 4.7792%
3.1861%[lower-alpha 1]
2.8947%[lower-alpha 1]
3.0306%[lower-alpha 1]
3.3343% 2.9528% 5.1215% (L1)
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Party vote share divided by "won constituency seats +2", has also been calculated for constituencies with two leveling seats (as each party in theory has a chance to win both of them).


  1. Kosningar 9. maí og Geir hættir, RÚV, 23 January 2009. (Icelandic)
  2. Iceland announces early election, BBC News, 23 January 2009.
  3. International Herald-Tribune Missing or empty |title= (help).
  4. Iceland’s Ruling Coalition Splits Following Protests, Bloomberg, 26 January 2009.
  5. New Iceland government under negotiation, IceNews, 27 January 2009.
  6. No new Icelandic government this weekend, IceNews, 31 January 2009.
  7. Framsókn ver nýja stjórn,, 31 January 2009. (Icelandic)
  8. "Iceland to Convene Constitutional Parliament", Iceland Review, 30 January 2009.
  9. "Iceland's Social Democrats Want a Vote on EU in May", Iceland Review, 27 January 2009.
  10. "Sigmundur kjörinn formaður", Morgunblaðið, 18 January 2009. (Icelandic)
  11. Opposition attempts to call Iceland elections, bypassing PM, IceNews, 22 January 2009.
  12. "New Chairman Elected for Iceland's Independents", Iceland Review, 30 March 2009, retrieved 26 April 2009.
  13. New leader of the Independence Party in Iceland selected, IceNews, 29 March 2009.
  14. "Iceland's biggest party wants two EU referendums", EU Business, 28 March 2009.
  15. Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir to run for re-election, IceNews, 1 March 2009.
  16. Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir quits, IceNews, 8 March 2009.
  17. Johanna Sigurdardottir changes mind, becomes likely party leader, IceNews, 20 March 2009.
  18. Elections in Iceland this weekend, IceNews, 22 April 2009.
  19. Fullveldissinnar draga framboð til baka vegna ólýðræðislegra aðstæðna, L-listi fullveldissinna, 3 April 2009. (Icelandic)
  20. Major political party conferences underway in Iceland, IceNews, 29 March 2009.
  21. Independence Party wants the euro, IceNews, 19 April 2009.
  22. Barclays To Lend More GBP11bn To UK Households, Businesses, EasyBourse, 23 April 2009.
  23. "Law on Parliamentary Elections (nr.24/2000)" (in Icelandic). Althingi. 19 May 2000. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 "Apportionment of Seats to Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament: Analysis of the Elections 2003 + 2007 + 2009" (PDF). The National Electoral Commission of Iceland. April 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The calculation of the allocation of parliamentary seats according to results of elections to Parliament 25th April 2009" (PDF) (in Icelandic). Landskjörstjórn (The National Electoral Commission). 8 Jan 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2013. (Originally publisher 18 May 2009, adjusted 8 Jan 2010.)
  26. Iceland’s Government Wins 60 Percent Approval Rating, Iceland Review Online, February 17, 2009
  27. Left coalition still widely liked, IceNews, March 21, 2009
  28. Iceland Places Social Alliance in First Place, Angus Reid Global Monitor, March 30, 2009
  29. Latest Iceland opinion poll results, IceNews, April 3, 2009
  30. 1 2 Samfylkingin mælist áfram stærst, Ruv, April 9, 2009
  31. Ruling Social Alliance Leads in Iceland, Angus Reid Global Monitor, April 21, 2009
  32. Síðasta könnun fyrir kosningar, Ruv, April 24, 2009
  33. Kosningar,, retrieved 2009-04-26. (Icelandic)

External links

Wikinews has related news: Icelandic centre-left coalition secures majority in parliamentary elections
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.