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article imageIceland forms 'unusual' left-right coalition after election

By AFP     Nov 30, 2017 in World

Iceland on Thursday formed a "highly unusual" left-right coalition a month after a general election, in a bid to stabilise politics in the nation which has seen rising distrust of a scandal-ridden elite.

Leader of the Left-Green Movement Katrin Jakobsdottir, 41, became Iceland's second woman prime minister as her party reached an agreement with the conservative Independence Party and the centre-right Progressive Party.

"It's a very interesting moment actually in Icelandic political history because these three parties are very different," Jakobsdottir told AFP, adding it is "highly unusual" for them to cooperate.

After a competitive election campaign, Jakobsdottir will now partner with former prime minister and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson, 47, who was her main rival in the October 28 snap vote.

Mentioned in the Panama Papers, which exposed offshore tax havens, and accused of selling almost all his assets before the 2008 economic collapse, Benediktsson has faced heavy criticism by the opposition and in the media.

In September Benediktsson was forced to call the election when a coalition partner quit the previous government after nine months over a legal scandal involving his father.

Growing public distrust of the elite in recent years has spawned several anti-establishment parties, splintering the political landscape and making it increasingly difficult to form a stable government.

Since the 2008 financial crisis devastated its economy, Iceland has made a spectacular recovery with robust growth of 7.2 percent in 2016 and unemployment at an enviable 2.5 percent.

"What is strange about the Icelandic situation today is that, economically speaking, we are doing tremendously," Benediktsson told AFP.

"Politically speaking, not so well," he added.

Jakobsdottir has promised to make sure Iceland's economic prosperity, triggered by booming tourism, leads to a boost in public spending on health and education.

Under the Icelandic system, the president, who holds a largely ceremonial role, usually tasks the leader of the biggest party with putting a government together.

But Gudni Johannesson gave Jakobsdottir, whose image as a humble and honest politician has earned her popularity, the mandate to form a government earlier this month even though her party came second after the Independence Party.

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