From Iceland — First Day of New Parliament Sees Contrasts and Clashes, Inside and Outside Government

First Day of New Parliament Sees Contrasts and Clashes, Inside and Outside Government

Published May 19, 2009

The first day of the new parliament, which began yesterday, included a
traditional address of party chairmen to the nation. The points of
view, and criticism towards each other, were as varied as the parties
Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a Social Democrat, surprised few by emphasising that most of the solutions to Iceland’s woes lie within the European Union. Coalition partner and Leftist-Green chairman Steingrímur J. Sigfússon countered that Iceland’s problems had to be solved within Iceland. Leftist-Green MP Guðfríður Lilja Gréttarsdóttir added that the Prime Minister “should speak for her own party”.
Conservative chairman Bjarni Benediktson warned the new coalition not to “get anyone’s hopes up” about what they are capable of doing to repair the economy. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, chairman of the Progressive Party, accused the ruling coalition of being hungry for power, showing little respect for the opposition, and trying to push through matters without sufficient time for discussion or investigation.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an MP for the Citizen’s Movement (the party chooses not to have a chairman), on the other hand praised the ruling coalition’s handling of the EU question as “leaving it for each MP to decide, regardless of party affiliation”. On the other hand, she emphasised that she was “very angry because this list [of tasks the new coalition intends to address during the summer] does not reflect the desperate need for emergency help to assist families in this country.” Furthermore, she warned that if the government does not do enough to turn the economic situation around, that this would initiate “another revolution – a revolution of people with nothing to lose.”

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