Iceland briefly celebrated the election of a female-majority parliament on Sunday, before results just short of that milestone for gender equality in the North Atlantic island nation.
Early vote counting saw female candidates winning 33 seats in Iceland’s 63-seat parliament, Alting, in an election that saw centrist parties make the biggest gains.
A few hours later, a recount in western Iceland changed the result, leaving female candidates with 30 seats, having previously reached Iceland’s second most recent election in 2016. Still, at around 48% of the total, it is the highest percentage for women. Member of Parliament in Europe.
Only a handful of countries, none of them in Europe, have the majority of women parliamentarians. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda leads the world, with Cuba, Nicaragua and Mexico making up 61%, or just over 50%, of women. Worldwide, the organization says that just a quarter of legislators are women.
“Women’s victory is the big story of these elections,” political professor Olafur Harderson told broadcaster RUV after the recount.
Iceland’s voting system is divided into six regions and the recount was conducted after questions about the number of ballots in Western Iceland. The mistakes are not fully explained, but are believed to be due to human error.
The three parties in the outgoing coalition government led by Prime Minister Katrin Jacobsdottir won a total of 37 seats in Saturday’s vote, two more than in the previous election, and appeared likely to remain in power.
Opinion polls suggested a victory for the Left in the unexpected election, which saw 10 parties compete for seats. But the centre-right Independence Party took the largest share of the vote, winning 16 seats, seven of which were held by women. The centrist Progressive Party celebrated the biggest lead, winning 13 seats, five more than last time.
Before the election, both parties formed a three-party coalition government of Iceland, together with Jakobsdottir’s Left Green Party. His party lost several seats, but retained eight seats, beating election predictions.
The three ruling parties have not announced that they will work together for another term, but it seems likely given the strong support from voters. The formation and announcement of the new government will take days if not weeks.
Climate change was ranked high on the electoral agenda in Iceland, a glacier-studded volcanic island nation of about 350,000 people in the North Atlantic. An exceptionally hot summer by Icelandic standards – with 59 days of temperatures above 20 C (68 F) – and shrinking glaciers have helped drive Granthshala warming to the political agenda.
But that didn’t seem to translate into increased support for any of the four left-wing parties that have campaigned for Iceland to cut more carbon emissions under the Paris climate agreement.
One candidate who reversed her victory by recount was law student Lenya Run Karim, the 21-year-old daughter of Kurdish immigrants who ran for the anti-establishment pirate party.
“It was a good nine hours,” said Karim, who would have been Iceland’s youngest ever parliamentarian.