From Iceland — Other Ideas About Charging Ministers

Other Ideas About Charging Ministers

Published September 23, 2010

The proposal to charge four former government ministers with negligence and mismanagement that contributed to the 2008 economic collapse has been countered with other proposed measures, from within the government and the opposition.
As reported, the parliamentary committee has come to the conclusion 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.
The proposal has been met with opposition, not just from the conservatives. The prime minister herself has said she doubted it would do any good to press charges, and that none of these ministers could have done anything to prevent the crash. Her remarks have drawn both surprise and disappointment from her partners in the Leftist-Greens.
While the proposal has been referred back to the parliamentary committee for more work, other proposals have been brought up.
For example, former prime minister Þorsteinn Pálsson – himself a conservative – has proposed that parliament instead pass a resolution that condemns the negligence and mismanagement of the four ministers, but does not press charges against them or spends revenue on a trial. This, he argues, saves time and money, and leaves a mark of disgrace on the names of the four ministers that would be etched into history.
Another idea, put forward by Social Democrat MP Ólína Þorvarðardóttir, argues instead that charges should be pressed – just not against these four ministers. Rather, she would like to see “the real culprits” charged; namely, former Central Bank chairman Davíð Oddsson, former Progressive Party chairman Halldór Ásgrímsson, and former minister of industry and business Valgerður Sverrisdóttir. These people, she contends, were responsible for pushing the libertarian economic agenda that allowed the banks to swell to the proportions that they did with little or no supervision.
The proposal to charge the four ministers is expected to leave committee on Monday, with a vote some time in the middle of next week.

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