An alternate MP for the Progressive Party told Grapevine he is quitting the party altogether, largely due the party’s handling of statements made by Progressive candidates for Reykjavík city council that he calls “offensive to Muslims”.
Þorsteinn Magnússon, once an alternate MP for the Progressive Party, announced today that he was leaving the party for good.
“It was a process coming to this decision,” he told Grapevine. “I think the candidates handled the mosque issue badly, that it was offensive to Muslims, and I was disappointed with the way they made it seem as though a mosque would be bad for Icelandic society. Their statements weren’t corrected, by themselves or the party leadership, when I think they should have stepped in.”
As reported, one week before elections, Progressive city council candidate Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir said she would revoke the granting of a plot of land for Iceland’s Muslims to build a mosque. Other remarks were made by her, and other Progressives, which also used Islam as a campaign point.
This, Þorsteinn told us, was the tipping point for him.
“There were other factors that led to this decision, sure,” he said. “But this was the biggest factor. It’s an issue of principles, and it goes against the basics of what the Progressive Party stands for. I don’t think it’s acceptable for any party to try and win votes this way.”
Þorsteinn said he was disappointed with the way Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the chairperson of the Progressive Party, handled the situation.
“It appears as though Sigmundur isn’t aware of the seriousness of the matter, or at least doesn’t agree with me that it’s unacceptable,” Þorsteinn told us. “He could have met with the candidates, and then made a unified statement that this was a mistake.”
Þorsteinn, who describes himself as a “centrist liberal”, has not yet made a decision one whether he is planning to run for office with another party.
“I’m just going to take some time now to think it over, and see if there’s a place for me in politics,” he said.