At a press conference held at Independence Party headquarters just now, Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson told reporters that new elections will be held “as soon as possible”, saying it would be most convenient to have them in November. He also defended the secrecy he maintained around the fact that his father had vouched for a convicted paedophile to have his criminal record expunged.
As reported, Benedikt Sveinsson, Bjarni’s father, had signed a letter vouching for the good character of Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson, a man who was convicted in 2004 of having raped his own stepdaughter almost every day for 12 years. Hjalti sought to have his record expunged in a controversial legal process known as “restored honour”, which requires a letter of recommendation. Bjarni, despite being informed of his father’s actions by the Ministry of Justice last July, kept this information from the general public and from his colleagues, until a parliamentary committee compelled the Ministry to make the information public. This prompted Bright Future to leave the ruling coalition late last night, effectively collapsing the government.
Bjarni told reporters today that he found it “shocking” to hear his father had signed such a letter, emphasising that he would never do the same. However, he explained that he kept the matter a secret under the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, who contended that the information was too sensitive to make public.
Contrary to this contention, a parliamentary committee had found the the Ministry went beyond the bounds of the law in how much information they concealed.
The question of when elections will be held is still in the air. Protesters in front of parliament today have demanded that elections be held at once. Other sources have floated the idea that elections will be held in the spring. However, municipal elections will also be held next spring, complicating matters, and no party appears willing to support an Independence Party-led coalition until then.
An exact date for Iceland’s new elections, just over a year from our last round of early elections in October 2016 (which were themselves sparked by a scandal that made international headlines), is still pending.
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