Conservatives Back in Power?

22.9.2010
Words by Paul Nikolov
Great divisiveness between the Social Democrats and the Leftist-Greens over whether or not former ministers should stand trial for negligence has brought up talk of new elections, or even a new coalition formed comprised of Social Democrats and the Independence Party - the same two parties who were driven from power in early 2009.

As reported, the parliamentary committee was originally assembled with the knowledge and approval of the prime minister and given the task to investigate which, if any, former ministers should stand trial in a national court for their part in the economic collapse. Their conclusion was that two conservatives - former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde and former Minister of Finance Árni M. Mathiesen - and two Social Democrats - former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir and former Minister of Business Björgvin G. Sigurðsson - should stand trial for negligence. A recent poll on the matter showed that a strong majority of Icelanders fully support the idea.

However, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, also a Social Democrat, told parliament that she doubts that pressing charges against them would accomplish anything, and that they could not have prevented the economic collapse.

The remarks have sparked a catalyst of reactions that could lead to new elections, or even a new coalition.

Atli Gíslason, chairman of the parliamentary committee, told Vísir that if a parliamentary majority does not pass a measure calling for the four former minister to stand trial, that new elections should be held.

In fact, many Leftist-Greens, Progressives, and MPs for The Movement have expressed disappointment with the prime minister's remarks, which they see as her protecting members of her own party, and many wondering why she has waited until now to say anything about the work the committee was assigned to do.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an MP for The Movement, called the Prime Minister's remarks "predictable spin", and said that she ought to apologize to parliament for it. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, chairman of the Progressive Party, told RÚV that new elections were indeed discussed in parliament yesterday, as was the formation of a new coalition, comprised of the Social Democrats and the Independence Party: the same two parties that were driven from power in the wake of popular protests in early 2009.

The Leftist-Green Party officially disagrees with the prime minister, with Leftist-Green chairman Steingrímur J. Sigfússon telling reporters that he was pleased with the work that the committee has done.

A vote on the matter is expected today.

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