Iceland Opposition Poised to Win General Election
The value of the country's currency plummeted, while inflation and unemployment soared. Iceland was forced to seek bailouts from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.
Despite being widely blamed for the meltdown, the Independents and Progressives say they are now best placed to lead the economic recovery.
The Progressives are promising to write off some mortgage debt, taking money from foreign creditors. Benediktsson's Independence Party is offering lower taxes and the lifting of capital controls that he says are hindering foreign investment.
Voters "were introduced to a plan that would bring us quicker out of the crisis than has been the reality," said Benediktsson."People are now looking forward and asking themselves... what kind of a plan is the most likely one to bring more growth, more job creation, to close the budget deficit, and have Iceland grow into the future?," he said. Whatever the final outcome, 70-year-old outgoing Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir has said she will retire from politics after the election. Iceland's first female -- and first openly gay -- prime minister, she was elected as head of a center-left alliance in 2009 on a wave of public disgust at the previous administration. Since then, Iceland has in many ways made a strong recovery. Unemployment has fallen and the economy is growing. But inflation remains naggingly high, and many Icelanders still struggle to repay home and car loans they took out -- often in foreign currencies whose value soared after the crash -- in the years of easy credit. Some accuse the government of caving in to international pressure to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for their citizens' lost deposits in the failed online bank Icesave. Icelanders have twice rejected repayment deals agreed to by Sigurdardottir's government. "The government that many people thought was cleaning up the mess is getting severely punished for the last four years," said journalist and political analyst Egill Helgason. "I don't know whether they deserve it. In many ways I think not. But this is politics -- cruel."
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