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Iceland’s Government Collapses, Uncertainty Lies Ahead

Iceland’s Government Collapses, Uncertainty Lies Ahead

Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published September 15, 2017

Bright Future have just announced that they will be ending their coalition with the Independence Party, effectively collapsing Iceland’s government.

In a brief two-sentence statement, which the party posted on their official Facebook page, they explain: “Bright Future leadership has decided to end cooperation with the government of [Prime Minister] Bjarni Benediktsson. The reason for the split is a serious breach of trust within the government.”

By this, they are referring to news which broke earlier this evening that Bjarni’s father had provided a recommendation letter of “restored honour” for Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson, a man convicted of having raped his stepdaughter almost daily for 12 years. Bjarni, despite having been informed of this by the Minister of Justice last July, kept this matter to himself until a parliamentary committee compelled the Ministry to release this information to the press.

The coalition is barely nine months old, and was only formed after over two months of attempted and failed negotiations between the parties who had won seats in last October’s parliamentary elections. Those elections were themselves held early, in the wake of last spring’s Panama Papers scandal which forced then Prime Minister and Progressive Party chair Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson from power. The coalition had a majority of exactly one seat.

It is uncertain which party will want to take Bright Future’s place as new coalition negotiations commence, although rumours are currently swirling that the Progressive Party will fill the void.

Bright Future has not exactly benefited from its coalition with the Independence Party. A Gallup poll released August 1 put them at an abysmal 3.7%, which is not even enough to win a seat in parliament. They currently have four seats.

In an interview Grapevine took with Bright Future chair and Minister of Health Óttarr Proppé last February, he said of partnering with the Independence Party: “You say the Independence Party has a history of being associated with cronyism. But it also has a history of being the largest, most popular party amongst Icelandic voters, and they have been for a very long time. So in that way, the party has other elements. … I’d say the Independence Party is not necessarily literally the status quo. In the joint platform that we made in this government, we see a lot of liberal thinking, and a more deliberate will for a more open and consensus-based way of working in politics than we’ve seen before. And this is not only my interpretation. All three parties agree on this.”

From here, there are a number of possibilities.

It is uncertain which party will want to take Bright Future’s place as new coalition negotiations commence. Although rumours are currently swirling that the Progressive Party will fill the void, nothing is as yet confirmed. There is also the smaller possibility that the President may give the mandate to form a new coalition to another party, or there may be new elections.

Grapevine will keep readers updated on developments as they arise.


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