Reactions from politicians and pundits in Iceland to the president’s decision to veto the Icesave law passed by parliament have ranged from the congratulatory to the bewildered. Abroad, Dutch authorities consider the agreement to still be in full effect, and the UK awaits how the people will vote on the referendum.
As reported, the president yesterday announced that he would not sign the Icesave law voted through a parliamentary majority last week, and would instead refer the matter to public referendum. His reasons were essentially threefold: a parliamentary minority showed support for a referendum, some 40,000 signatures on an online petition called for the matter to be put up for referendum, and the latest opinion poll on the matter showed that most Icelanders (62%) believe the Icesave matter should be ultimately decided by the people.
The accuracy of the online petition has been called into question, as it has been demonstrated that it was possible to add false names to the list. The office of the president said they had called a number of people on the petition to confirm whether or not they had signed it, Morgunblaðið reports, and that 99% of those called confirmed they had signed the petition. The office would not disclose how many people it had called.
The blog world has, as could be expected, been on fire with opinions ranging from praise for the president to those, such as journalist Jónas Kristjánsson, saying that the president chose to follow nationalism over all else.
Among politicians, the prime minister told RÚV that while she respects the president’s decision, as surprising as it was, that he was also taking “a real risk” by setting the country up for possibly going to court over Icesave – a move that the Icesave negotiations chairman Lee Buchheit has warned against. Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon took much the same tone, saying that he was “baffled” by the president’s decision.
Bjarni Benediktsson, chairman of the Independence Party, said that he was satisfied with the president’s decision, Eyjan reports. Although his party voted overwhelmingly in favour of the agreement, he also stated last week that he wanted to see the matter put up for referendum. Progressive party chairman Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson told Eyjan he was also pleased with the veto. MPs of his party had either voted against the agreement or abstained.
Lárus L. Blöndal, who represented the opposition on the Icesave commission, told RÚV that while he would not take a position on the veto, he believes that the deal which was made was the best one that could have been achieved. He added that going to court could be beneficial to Iceland in the end.
In the meantime, both the UK and Holland seem to consider the agreement still in full effect, unless or until the public referendum ultimately defeats the Icesave agreement.
President Vetoes Icesave 3 – Referendum Imminent