From Iceland — Meet Iceland's New Government

Meet Iceland’s New Government

Published January 11, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The joint platform and the ministers for Iceland’s new right-wing government have been announced. Nothing indicates the country is now headed for the European Union, but the fact that Iceland has swapped one Prime Minister in the Panama Papers for another has attracted international attention.

As reported, Independence Party chair Bjarni Benediktsson is Iceland’s new Prime Minister. As the Washington Post was quick to point out, Bjarni was – like his predecessor, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson – implicated in the Panama Papers.

The new ruling coalition, comprised of the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future, have divided up ministerial posts between themselves, and is comprised of seven men and four women. In addition to Bjarni having the Prime Ministership, the following people have been given the following posts:

Benedikt Jóhannesson, chair of the Reform Party: Minister of Finance
Óttarr Proppé, chair of Bright Future: Minister of Health
Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Independence Party MP: Minister of Foreign Affairs
Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Reform Party MP: Minister of Agriculture and Fishing
Björt Ólafsdóttir, Bright Future MP: Minister for the Environment
Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Independence Party MP: Minister of Industry and Tourism
Þorsteinn Víglundsson, Reform Party MP: Minister of Social Affairs
Jón Gunnarsson, Independence Party MP: Minister of Transportation and Communication
Sigríður Á. Andersen, Independence Party MP: Minister of Justice
Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Independence Party MP: Minister of Education

Contrary to reports elsewhere in the international media, despite both Bright Future and the Reform Party heavily emphasising holding a referendum on whether or not to join the European Union, this will not be a part of the new government’s platform.

The joint platform of this government places emphasis on “balance and foresight”. Health care will be a priority, the platform states, with the goal to ensure that everyone has access to good health care regardless of income level, as well as to attract investors to help develop Iceland’s infrastructure.

The response from members of the opposition parties has been decidedly pessimistic. Progressive Party chair Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson told reports he fears that people living outside the capital area will be ignored, while MPs for the Social Democrats and the Left-Greens are disappointed that the joint platform is “vague and generally worded”.

Where Iceland’s new government will take the country policy-wise still remains to be seen, but they will officially take over at 13:30 today.

Iceland’s next government will be decidedly right wing: both the Independence Party and the Reform Party are conservative, while Bright Future is centrist.

Also of important note: this coalition will have a majority of exactly one seat. This will make passing legislation without complete concordance within the coalition impossible, and does give the opposition considerable power. Pirate Party captain Birgitta Jónsdóttir has said already that she will put forward a vote of no confidence once the new government comes together.

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