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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Struggle looms for Iceland PM
Iceland's Prime Minister David Oddsson
Oddsson is already Europe's longest serving prime minister

Iceland's longest serving prime minister, David Oddsson, has won a narrow election victory - but his party's share of the vote is so reduced that he may struggle to secure a fourth term in office.

Mr Oddsson's conservative Independence Party won 22 seats in the 63-seat Althingi parliament - just two more than the rival Social Alliance, whose own leader lost her seat.

The junior partner in the outgoing coalition, the Progressive Party, now holds the balance of power after retaining all its 12 seats.

It is expected to continue with the Independence Party - still the biggest force, despite losing four seats - but could give its support to the Social Alliance.

I would like ... time to write while I still have the spark to do it
Oddsson indicates a last term in office

Polls had indicated that voters were torn between the prosperity created by Mr Oddsson's 12 years at the helm, and the need for a fresh alternative to what opponents call his autocratic style.

About 200,000 people, 88% of the electorate, turned out to vote in the general elections.

Coalition 'kingmaker'

Mr Oddsson had focused his campaign on his economic record and offers of tax cuts.

The Social Alliance, headed by former Reykjavik mayor Ingibjorg Sorlun Gisladottir, had promised to close the gap between rich and poor and reform the fishing industry, Iceland's main export earner.

New make up of Iceland's Althingi
Independence - 22 (Lose 4)
Progressive - 12
Social Alliance - 20 (Gain 3)
Left-Green coalition- 5
Liberal Party - 4

She was apparently so confident of her party's chances that she placed herself only fifth on the list of candidates the Social Alliance would seat from her district of the capital. Her strategy backfired and she was nudged out.

As leader of the Progressive Party, the coalition's foreign minister Halldor Asgrimsson now finds himself in the position of kingmaker.

He said on television it would be difficult to form a new government, adding: "It is clear from the results that the people want the Progressive Party to continue".

Mr Oddsson was quoted by Reuters as saying that, if he did return as prime minister for a fourth consecutive term, it would be his last.

"I would like ... time to write while I still have the spark to do it," he said.

Since Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944, no party has been able to form a government on its own.

An official announcement on the outcome of a new coalition is expected in a few days.




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Iceland
04 Apr 03  |  Country profiles


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