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Cheeky 'Best Party' wins Iceland poll

A cheeky new party headed by a comedian has won Reykjavik city polls, highlighting discontent with politicians blamed for wrecking Iceland's economy.

Best Party - whose leader campaigned on free towels in all city swimming pools, a polar bear for the zoo and cleaning up politics - took 34.7% of Saturday's vote in a shock defeat for traditional political parties.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Olafur Hardarsson, a political science professor at the University of Iceland, told public broadcaster RUV.

“I think we have to see these elections as the public's general expression of discontent with politicians, the political parties and the political circumstances we've had recently,” Hardarsson said.

The victory makes Best Party leader Jon Gnarr, one of Iceland's top comedians, mayor of the capital and gives it six city council seats, two short of a majority.

Gnarr said he had not yet decided who to work with on the new council.

“The ball's in our court, I'm just going to have a good look at it and contemplate it and then do something beautiful with it,” he told RUV.

“Nobody needs to be frightened of the Best Party because it's the best. And we only want what is best - if we didn't, we'd be called the Worst Party or the Bad Party.”

The party burst onto Reykjavik's political scene six months ago and its candidates broadcast their campaign pledges through a music video on YouTube to the soundtrack of Tina Turner's Simply the Best.

Among its members are an ex-singer with the pop band Sugarcubes, a housewife and an architect.

They beat out their traditional counterparts by vowing to clean up politics, with about 83% of the capital's registered voters casting their ballots.

The win, and the 5% of blank votes, were “clues that politicians should take seriously”, Hardarsson said.

Voters were reacting to a parliamentary report into the causes of the country's financial collapse, he said.

Published in April, the report said former Icelandic leaders' “extreme negligence” and explosive bank growth were the main causes for the 2008 financial crisis that crippled Iceland's economy.

The Independence Party - blamed for drawing up the blueprints of the 2008 banking collapse - came a close second on Saturday, obtaining 33.6% of the vote and five city councilors.

Its outgoing mayor, Hanna Birna Kristjansdottir, downplayed the party's loss.

“In the national elections last year we received 22% but now we received almost 34%, so we're just very happy with that and it's a very good result to get that much support,” she told RUV.

The Social Democrat Alliance, currently Iceland's governing party, came in third with 19.1% of the vote and three councilors.

The Left-Green movement, part of the governing national coalition, obtained 7.1% of the votes and one city seat. The Progressive Party took 2.7% of the vote but no seats on the council.

As early results came in late on Saturday, Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said a “Best Party” victory could signal the end of the traditional four-party system in Iceland.

“We're seeing a turning tide in Icelandic politics that will have a great effect on future politics,” she told public television RUV.

“I think this is a big shock, a crash landing for the four political parties,” she said. (AFP)