Written by Ivan Pentchoukov, CNN
For the first time in Iceland’s history, there are women representing every single seat in the country’s Parliament.
It’s the result of a historic election, which has also established two unique firsts. Instead of producing a government dominated by two major parties, or even one majority party, voters have chosen to put a second and third-place party in power. The ruling Democratic Party has been reduced to nine seats in the 68-seat Parliament.
Known as the Democracy Act, the result gives women control over the legislative process. Several female candidates addressed the media last week to celebrate their victory, including the architect of the reform, Katrin Jakobsdottir.
“I had never expected that such a reform could work. The proof lies in the fact that women all around Iceland achieved this result,” she said.
Explaining the reform to the Reykjavik Chronicle in 2011, she said: “If you have more women, both as participants and as decision-makers, you create a stronger society. I saw that we had a large female electorate, but all Icelanders had to understand that.”
Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir (pictured) shakes hands with Zane Hanson, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, at Iceland’s Cabinet Room in Reykjavik on October 30, 2017. Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Most Icelandic women are educated outside of Iceland, often in the UK or the US. Iceland is one of only two countries where the majority of parliamentarians are women. The first woman had been elected to the island nation’s Parliament in 1989.
Explaining how the country’s first gender balance in parliament came about, Hakon Nissen, the leader of the Progressive Party, told the Icelandic news outlet Visir: “It’s a result of massive work done by lots of us over the years, and often in the dark — and we can get all the credit.”
In November 2017, Neil McKay of VICE News reported on gender balance in several political parties across Europe, describing the Male Front as the most politically powerful “half” of the world.
“The number of female MPs in parliamentary seats across Europe has increased over the last 10 years from 15% to 24% — with more significant gains made in the last election. But many parties remain the Male Front — with almost 70% of MPs male, and the rest women. And the disproportionately more male-dominated politics of Europe continues,” he wrote.
On its website, the UK’s conservative Conservative Party described Iceland as “among the safest states in Europe” at the moment, with 69% of voters turning out.
“However, as more and more people try to effect change in their communities the Leave [out of the EU] campaign lost more support over the ensuing months as people saw that EU membership was a non-starter,” the party added.
Iceland is one of the few countries in Europe where female voters were able to vote without being required to wear a headscarf or other Islamic attire.
In the autumn of 2017, a poll of Italian women showed more than half supported the idea of banning full-face veils in public, including at work. The Italian Referendum Commission said that a petition calling for a referendum on a parliamentary bill on whether to ban the veil exceeded the 250,000 signatures threshold to trigger a vote.
In 2015, Netherlands newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported on a “Save Our Women” survey conducted by the European Center for Human Rights (ECHR).