REYKJAVIK, April 25 (AFP) - Iceland goes to the polls today in a general election called just months after its economic meltdown, with voters set to snub the party seen as responsible for the crisis in favour of the interim leftist government.
Icelanders are expected to give the cold shoulder to the conservative Independence Party which governed the country for 18 years until it was ousted in January amid massive protests over the crisis that brought Iceland to the brink of bankruptcy.
Public opinion polls have suggested a comfortable victory for the Social Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, and its junior coalition partner the Left Green Movement.
While Icelanders had enjoyed a standard of living envied by the rest of Europe, the country's heavy reliance on the financial sector meant that the global crisis which erupted late last year had a devastating impact.
The state had to take control of three major banks in October, as the local currency, the Icelandic krona, plunged. Thousands of people lost their savings and their jobs, and unemployment, which was virtually inexistent before the crisis, is expected to hit 10 percent by the end of this year, the central bank says.