Iceland conservative leader claims PM post

The leader of Iceland's conservative Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson, early Sunday claimed the post of prime minister after the centre-right opposition ousted the country's leftist government.

"The Independence Party is called to duty again," Benediktsson told supporters, saying he was ready to negotiate a coalition that would lead the country.

The Independence Party looks set to gain 21 out of the Althing legislature's 63 seats, and its long-term coalition partner, the centrist-agrarian Progressive Party, will have 18, according to the latest projections from public broadcaster RUV.

The two parties have a history of governing together, and presided over the liberalisation of the financial sector that critics say prompted the banking system's collapse in 2008.

Benediktsson, 43, has been a member of parliament since 2003 and the chairman of his party since 2009.

The head of the Progressive Party, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, told supporters the party was back in power.

"We will change Iceland for the better very fast in the coming months and years," he said.

The ousting of the social democratic-led coalition came amid voter discontent over austerity measures and high levels of household debt.