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Iceland's PM resigns after strong election gains by leftist parties

Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson's party lost ground to the right-center Independence Party and to several left-leaning parties.

By Ed Adamczyk
Iceland's PM resigns after strong election gains by leftist parties
U.S.President Barack Obama (R) and first lady Michelle Obama (2nd, L) welcome Iceland's Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannson (2nd, R) and his spouse Ingibjorg Elsa Ingjaldsdottir, at the White House for a State Dinner on May 13 in Washington, D.C. Johannson resigned Sunday after his party lost ground to the rival Independence Party and several left-leaning parties. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Iceland's prime minster announced his resignation after his party lost ground in parliament to center-left parties, most notably the four-year-old Pirate Party.

Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, in office since April after the departure of predecessor Sigmundur David Gunnlaughsson in a corruption scandal, said Sunday he would resign. In Saturday's election, his center-right Progressive Party won eight seats in the 63-seat parliament, the Althing. That was down from 13 seats in the 2013 election.

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The party's coalition partner, the Independence Party, won 21, up from 19 in 2013. The left-leaning parties -- the Pirate Party, the Left-Green Party and the Regeneration Party -- collectively won 27 seats, nearly a majority.

While the Independence Party individually won the most seats, it will have to contend with the strong showing of left-leaning parties, which gained significantly.

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The surprise came as the Pirate Party, convened four years ago by a collection of activists, anarchists and hackers, nearly tripled its representation in the Althing, which first began deliberations in the year 930 and is regarded as the world's oldest parliament. More than a dozen parties competed for about 246,000 votes Saturday, the election focusing on anger directed at Iceland's political elite and a desire for change. The Pirate party, which received about 40 percent of the support of voters under 30, campaigned on a platform of government transparency and inclusiveness.

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The Pirate Party said it intends to build a five-party liberal coalition to help reform Iceland's government, rocked by political corruption observed in the 2008 financial meltdown and more recently by the leak of the Panama Papers, which revealed conflicts of interest on the part of Progressive Party members.

Voters elected 30 women to the Althing, or 47 percent of membership; Iceland's parliament now has the world's highest percentage of women.

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