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Iceland Elects 1st Female-Majority Govt09/26 10:45

   

   REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- Iceland has elected a female-majority parliament, 
a landmark for gender equality in the North Atlantic island nation, in a vote 
that saw centrist parties make the biggest gains.

   After all votes were counted Sunday, female candidates held 33 seats in 
Iceland's 63-seat parliament, the Althing. The three parties in the outgoing 
coalition government led by Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir won a total of 
37 seats in Saturday's vote, two more than in the last election, and appeared 
likely to continue in power.

   The election makes Iceland the only country in Europe, and one of a handful 
in the world, with a majority of female lawmakers. According to the 
Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda leads the world with women making up 61% of 
its Chamber of Deputies, with Cuba, Nicaragua and Mexico narrowly over the 50% 
mark. Worldwide, the organization says just over a quarter of legislators are 
women.

   The milestone for women comes despite a poor outcome for parties on the 
left, where female candidates are more often frontrunners.

   Politics professor Silja Bara Omarsdottir said the gender quotas implemented 
by left-leaning parties for the past decade had managed to create a new norm 
across Iceland's political spectrum.

   "It is no longer acceptable to ignore gender equality when selecting 
candidates," she said.

   Opinion polls had suggested a victory for left-leaning parties in the 
unpredictable election, which saw 10 parties competing for seats. But the 
center-right Independence Party took the largest share of votes, winning 16 
seats, seven of them held by women. The centrist Progressive Party celebrated 
the biggest gain, winning 13 seats, five more than last time.

   Before the election, the two parties formed Iceland's three-party coalition 
government, together with Jakobsdottir's Left Green Party. Her party lost 
several seats, but kept eight, outscoring poll predictions.

   The three ruling parties haven't announced whether they will work together 
for another term, but given the strong support from voters it appears likely. 
It will take days, if not weeks, for a new government to be formed and 
announced.

   Climate change had ranked high on the election agenda in Iceland, a 
glacier-studded volcanic island nation of about 350,000 people in the North 
Atlantic. An exceptionally warm summer by Icelandic standards -- with 59 days 
of temperatures above 20 C (68 F) -- and shrinking glaciers have helped drive 
global warming up the political agenda.

   But that didn't appear to have translated into increased support for any of 
the four left-leaning parties that campaigned to cut carbon emissions by more 
than Iceland is committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.

   Among incoming members of parliament are the oldest and youngest lawmakers 
ever to take a seat in Iceland: 72-year-old burger joint owner Tomas Tomasson 
and 21-year-old law student Lenya Run Karim, a daughter of Kurdish immigrants 
who is from the anti-establishment Pirate Party.

   "I want to improve Iceland's treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers," she 
told The Associated Press, vowing to speak up for young people at parliament. 
"Our ideas need to be heard more."

 
 
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