Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Iceland elects first female-majority parliament

Written by By Márta Muller, CNN

Iceland has elected the country’s first female-majority parliament, marking an important milestone for the island’s human rights movement.

The official results show the Progressive Party of Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir won 49 seats in the 120-seat Parliament (Iceland’s parliament doesn’t have proportional representation). The Social-Democratic Alliance, led by former female prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, picked up 26.

The overwhelming result follows a campaign where women campaigned on safeguarding public services — including healthcare, education and pensions — and in support of gender equality.

“The most important thing is that Icelanders get to elect women for parliament,” Sigurdardottir said in an interview on the night of the election. “It’s the first parliament of this strength — of a woman-majority.”

After more than 20 years of men dominating Icelandic politics, the increased voting rate among women and for gender equality in general saw the return of three female prime ministers in the past 16 years.

“It has finally changed”

“It has finally changed,” said Mikael Thorsteinsson, also a former prime minister. “In spite of the fact that women are half of the population, we’ve never been able to have a clear majority in parliament. What is great is that all the major parties support one another now.”

The best-performing party among women was the Radical Party, which won nine seats, the biggest share of the female vote since 1996.

“I think it’s a big change,” said Sigrun Gjantefjall, leader of the Radical Party. “It’s something we’ve been working for. Our party has done a lot in Parliament on women’s rights. One of the first issues we talked about was a woman’s right to choose and the Supreme Court gave us that decision in 1994.”

Amid headlines questioning the government’s commitment to the fight against climate change, the Progressives have demonstrated leadership on environmental issues. The party’s vice-chairman, Inga Hellsgottir, is pushing for mandatory wind-energy stations in Iceland, already the world’s biggest user of hydropower power.

Roughly 90% of the island’s energy comes from hydroelectric sources, as well as geothermal and biomass, with a smaller share from renewable energy sources.

“I believe we’ve shown that we really are on the right track, that we have the potential to take Iceland in the right direction,” Hellsgottir said.

For its part, the Social-Democratic Alliance has called for a more gender-balanced workforce and improved laws on parental leave, paid maternity leave and equal pay.

The full results of the general election will be published by the Statistics Office this Friday.

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