The decision made by MPs for the Independence Party to support the new Icesave deal has provoked an immediate reaction from other members of the party, and could spell the end of chairman Bjarni Benediktsson’s tenure.
The conservatives fought hard against the previous Icesave deal, barely passed by parliament in December 2009 but subsequently vetoed by the president.
The new deal – which comes with lower interest rates and less of a state burden – was originally met with scepticism from conservatives. Independence Party chairman Bjarni Benediktsson said last December that while he would not comment on the deal directly, he told Vísir that there even being a new deal was proof positive that opposition to the previous deal was worth it.
This week, conservatives on the finance committee, Ásbjörn Óttarsson, Kristján Þór Júlíusson and Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, issued a joint statement expressing their support for the bill as it is now. They said in part that the party has “long fought to find a political solution to the matter” and have come to find the new terms more acceptable.
To this, not every conservative has been in agreement.
SUS – the youth branch of the Independence Party – voiced their opposition, saying it was “naive” the believe what the ruling coalition says the ultimate tax burden will be.
Bjarni Benediktsson has received a torrent of angry comments on his Facebook page from members of his own party, many of them saying that he has betrayed the party and the country. Bjarni defended the decision, saying “The difference between this agreement and the old one are night and day. I have always supported discussion for a solution, and believe it is right to confirm the one that is now before us.”
Be that as it may, Heimdallar, the association of young conservatives in Reykjavík, reminded their parliamentarians that at the party’s previous national convention, they had voted into part of their platform “the rejection of the illegal demands of the British and the Dutch” with regards to Icesave.
In addition, the last opinion poll on the matter, conducted by Fréttablaðið, showed that 53% of conservative voters oppose the new Icesave deal, and are in fact the only party wherein the majority do oppose the deal.
If these same voters believe conservative MPs have betrayed the party’s platform, as Heimdallur contends, it could mean a change in leadership.
Conservatives Support New Icesave Deal