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Opposition leading Iceland vote in early count


Iceland's centre-right opposition took an early lead after polls closed Saturday in parliamentary elections, as voters punished the leftist coalition for austerity measures during its four years in power, according to early estimates.

A partial count of ballots in one of the country's six voting districts -- a rural area in the south -- showed the centrist-agrarian Progressive Party with 33.5 percent of the vote, the conservative Independence Party with 28.4 percent and the Social Democratic Alliance Party trailing its rivals with just 10.5 percent.

The Progressive Party tends to do well in the district, but a comparison with the last election shows that voters have shunned the left.

Two men are battling for the post of prime minister: the Progressives' Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, 38, and the Independence Party's Bjarni Benediktsson, 43.

Both are running on a populist platform promising to ease household debt after homeowners were hit by spiralling costs for inflation-linked mortgages, as the value of the Icelandic krona collapsed.

The two parties have a long history of governing together.

The 63-seat parliament, known as the Althing, is elected by proportional representation.