The rift between the Progressive chairman and his own members of parliament appears to be growing, with a new conflict brewing between party leadership and their most experienced MP, Siv Friðleifsdóttir.
Opinion over the European Union question appears to be divided within the party. Progressive chairman Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is staunchly against joining the EU, but not everyone in his party agrees with him. Most recently, Guðmundur Steingrímsson – whose father and his father before him were both at one time chairmen of the Progressives – left the party, saying he could not support Sigmundur’s anti-EU stance or the “growing nationalism” of his rhetoric.
Siv Friðleifsdóttir, who is the most experienced Progressive MP sitting in parliament, has most recently been the focus of Sigmundur’s ire.
The most recent conflict between the two was sparked when Siv proposed a change to a government bill about how ministers are appointed, instead of just voting against it, as Sigmundur wanted to have done. Normally, the Prime Minister will select who the ministers of a new government will be, but Siv’s proposal put forward that the Prime Minister introduce their choices to parliament for a discussion and a vote first. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir praised Siv for her proposal.
Tensions grew further when Siv pointed out the “paranoia” about the EU that some within her own party have. She said she intended to express this opinion “even though some might find it difficult to listen to,” apparently while looking directly at Gunnar Braga Sveinsson, Sigmundur’s right-hand man. Sigmundur was allegedly so infuriated by this open defiance that “he slammed every door he could possibly slam,” in the words of one unnamed MP.
The matter now seems to have come to a head, as Siv was removed from her chair on the Prime Minister’s committee, where she has sat for the past year. Siv immediately declared the move to be a “punishment” related to the previously mentioned conflicts.
The women of the Progressive Party are not taking the matter sitting down. The leadership of the National Association of Progressive Women issued a statement criticising Siv’s removal from the committee, saying that apart from having more experience than the party chairman, she has done her job on the committee exceptionally well. They add that it also goes against tradition to switch out MPs from committees in the middle of a term.
This latest conflict is a part of what appears to be a growing rift within the party. Many Progressives have publicly spoken out against Sigmundur’s perceived xenophobia, which also prompted the leader of the Young Progressives to resign as well.