Iceland, with its staggeringly egalitarian political culture and craven pursuit of global wealth, has adopted the highest possible minimum wage, a free universal university education and a system of universal health care.
Now the country has also adopted the minimum requirement of a parliamentary majority and has elected one of its first ever female-majority parliamentarians.
Dagny Ásk Snorri Sigurðardóttir, an activist and former journalist, was elected in a runoff over a long-time political leader, Gudni Thúy, who was forced to quit the party after being accused of sex abuse.
Sigurðardóttir told a news conference on Monday that she “seemed like the most sensible candidate and that I had the support of enough potential coalition partners”.
Her party’s electoral support was sufficient to win a majority of seats in the 216-seat parliament, despite partaking in a minority coalition with a cross-party alliance that includes the Pirate Party. “By being part of a coalition, we had to agree on a programme that included a prime minister who resigned,” she said.
Following Iceland’s 2008 financial crisis, nearly a quarter of the workforce was forced to take a job with their own money, the poorest being pensioners. A worldwide outcry, along with enlightened elements in the Icelandic financial sector, led to a bailout of the European country’s economy and a new wave of industrial policy and social welfare provisions.
Sigurðardóttir, a common man who was born into a middle-class family in the western part of the country, called for the elimination of poverty, reducing gender disparity and advocating a higher minimum wage.
“I think that this is a very strong statement for democracy, that minority parties have been able to form a large majority,” she said.