Today was officially the fourth day of protests outside of the house of parliament (Alþingi) at Austurvöllur. Despite diminished attendance numbers, the small crowd banged on throughout the day (and was still banging at the time of writing).
The group started protesting outside the Independence Party’s committee meeting at the party’s headquarters, Valhöll (“Valhalla”) around noon, but quickly shifted to the house of parliament as some shocking news from the meeting were revealed.
Haarde Sick – Steps Down
At the meeting, Prime Minister and Independence Party chairman Geir H. Haarde delivered the news that a malignant tumour had been detected in his oesophagus. Reportedly, the unsuccessful PM got word about the tumour from his doctors last Tuesday, followed with advice that he should seek treatment. “Such a treatment cannot be performed in this country, and I will therefore undergo it abroad at the beginning of next month. I am optimistic that I will beat this sickness, and I am told that my chances for recovery are good and that I can expect full working capacity in the next month. On the other hand, one cannot rule out the possibility that matters like this can turn to the worse in the long run,” Morgunblaðið quotes Haarde from the meeting.
He furthermore announced that the Independence Party is calling for elections this spring, on May 9th to be exact, and that he will not seek to lead the party anymore, in light of his sickness. In light of their proposed election date (and these guys usually get their way, so it’s probably going to happen), the party has furthermore decided to postpone its annual party conference until March 26. He also noted that it was the party’s opinion that the current government should remain in office until the proposed election.
Extreme Sympathy, Some Remain Unconvinced
It’s safe to say that the Icelandic nation responded with extreme sympathy to Haarde’s announcements, although some remain unconvinced that this changes anything in terms of the current situation. Protest organiser and troubadour Hörður Torfason was quoted by Morgunblaðið as saying he was surprised by Haarde’s announcement, that the proposed election was a diversion tactic and that much more action needed to be taken in light of the current situation.
His honest, if untactful, announcements were met with shocking amounts of rage and – dare we say – homophobia by Morgunblaðið’s bloggers, who claim that he should have shown more empathy towards the PM’s troubled situation (some of them add that Torfason “…should climb back into his closet and stay there”). Other noted talking heads, such as resident Social Democrat Alliance EU cheerleader Eiríkur Bergmann Eiríksson called to an end to all protesting so as to show solidarity with Haarde.
The Grapevine is of course saddened by the news of Haarde’s illness, and wishes him a quick and speedy recovery. Despite all that’s gone down lately, he is a good guy and a formidable singer. However, both Haarde, the government he leads and the system that it governs remain unchanged and unreformed, so if there was ever any merit to the protestors claims – it still remains.
Or to quote an unnamed protestor The Grapevine interviewed outside of parliament today: “I feel sorry for Haarde, and I hope he makes it. But I wasn’t protesting his health. I wasn’t protesting his body or his oesophagus. I was protesting a government that is incapable, and a government that remains unable to accept any responsibility for the situation we are currently faced with. If they get off the hook this way, I have even less faith in the Icelandic nation than I used to. I guess it gets what it deserves. Lord knows they’ve voted for these people enough times.”
Social Democrats Leader Also Ill
Haarde is not the only member of Iceland’s government to be stricken by illness, as Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Minister of Foreign Affairs and head of the Social Democrat Coalition Party, has been incapacitated over the last few months due to a benign brain tumour.
Today, Gísladóttir returned from Sweden, where she has been undergoing treatment for her illness. She threw a small press conference at her return, where she announced that the Independence Party’s proposed election date of May 9th sounded good to her, and that she could make no immediate announcements of how the governmental coalition of her party and the Independence Party would continue until then. She furthermore expressed her sympathies to Haarde, and that she planned to lead her party in the upcoming elections (there have been speculations that she will resign due to her illness). This was reported by Vísir and Víkurfréttir.
No Drunken Protesting This Weekend!
As for the protests, they continued throughout the day and were still going on as Grapevine left the scene at 7:00 PM. The below video was shot at 4:00 PM and shows the determined bunch banging on, clapping on and making some noise to apply pressure to the government.
Several leading groups in the on-going protests have announced that they do not plan to protest tonight (Friday night) and tomorrow night, so as to prevent drunken hooliganism from tainting their cause (and as can be observed HERE – click “Horfa á myndskeið með frétt”) this is a good idea. They urge people to show up tomorrow at three, and continue protesting vigorously on Sunday, when there is less chance of hooligans ruining everything.
Stay tuned to Grapevine.is in the coming days. We have received a plethora of pictures and documentation from the week’s protests that we will publish over the weekend. As always, those that have any words, pictures, movie clips, poetry (or whatever) that they want to contribute to Grapevine.is are urged to send them to email@example.com.
Read The Grapevine’s previous coverage of the protests and all that jazz:
Protests At Parliament Continue Through The Night
Injuries Reported During Protests
Protest Action Mounts In Reykjavík
They Keep A-Bangin’
Most Icelanders Support The Protestors
Elections In The Spring Become More Likely
As always, send in your stuff; pictures, videos, words, songs, uhm… scripts, to firstname.lastname@example.org.