Meet Iceland's New (Old) Government - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Meet Iceland’s New (Old) Government

Photos by
Hörður Sveinsson

A new government formed in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal has been formally announced.

In the wake of a meeting between the Progressive Party and the Independence Party, held about an hour ago, it was just announced ago that the ruling coalition of the Progressive Party and the Independence Party will hold. The new Prime Minister will be Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson. It is still uncertain who will replace Sigurður, who was Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Amazingly, this was not announced by the chairpersons of the ruling coalition, but rather by Progressive MP Höskuldur Þór Þórhallsson. When reporters asked him if they would be speaking with the chairpersons, he responded that he thought the press had already spoken with the chairpersons.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson did not stay long after emerging from the meeting, saying only that the next Prime Minister “is a very trustworthy and good man” before leaving.

Shortly after Höskuldur left, Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson and Sigurður Ingi emerged. Bjarni announced that the government “has responded to the events of the past few days, with [Sigmundur Davíð] stepping aside as Prime Minister.”

For his part, Sigurður told reporters that he believed it “very important that the government be able to complete the big projects that it has been working on.” He added that Sigmundur has been asked to contact President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and call for a government meeting, likely to happen at around noon tomorrow. Sigmundur will be continuing as a regular member of parliament.

Both said they believed the ruling coalition has the support to continue on until elections. At the same time, Bjarni promised that any proposal to dissolve parliament will be responded to with “38 votes against it,” referring to the combined seats of the Independence Party and the Progressive Party.

Elections, which were due to be held in late spring 2017, will instead be held this fall, at a date that still has yet to be determined, but Bjarni said this will be announced after parliament concludes.

The announcement was made during the third day of massive protests in the wake of the Panama Papers leak that has implicated not only the Prime Minister, but also Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal, members current and former of Reykjavík City Hall and possibly hundreds of other Icelanders.

Protests are still ongoing at the time of this writing, and about 6,000 protesters were counted at 18:30, although those numbers dwindled fast by 20:00. Protesters reporters spoke with said they have every intention of keeping the protests going.

Pirate Party MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson said that his party, which has reached record levels of support, will still push forward a proposal to dissolve parliament and hold earlier elections – a sentiment echoed by other members of the opposition.

By all accounts, this story is far from over.

For more on this continuing story, follow our Panama Papers tag on Grapevine.is/news.


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