Iceland's Travelgate Continues: MP Goes On The Defensive - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Travelgate Continues: MP Goes On The Defensive

Published February 15, 2018

Photo by
althingi.is/Art Bicnick

Independence Party MP Ásmundur Friðriksson continues to justify his travel expenses, which may have been grossly overestimated, by pointing out that he lives in the countryside and has lots of constituents to visit. He added that using a rental car, as Parliamentary regulations stipulate, is less than ideal because rental cars are “used and not good”.

Ásmundur has recently been the subject of criticism due to having spent the most money of any current MP on travel expenses within Iceland. These costs are reimbursed by Parliament, in his case to the tune of 4.6 million ISK. The Icelandic Automobile Association (FÍB) has estimated that this is twice as much money as he should require in travel expenses for his car, a Kia Sportage.

“Do we want to have members of Parliament in the countryside?,” Ásmundur rhetorically asked on roundtable news discussion show Kastljósið last night. “Do we want to have MPs who live in the East Fjords and in the north, who work in Parliament and are required to live in their districts? Or do we want everyone to be a 101 rat?,” using a common pejorative, especially popular in the countryside, for people who live in Reykjavík’s downtown postal code.

Ásmundur added that he has plenty of constituents to visit in his district, and turned his attention against the media as well for their coverage of the controversy.

“I have to tell it like it is and say this has gotten a little personal,” he said. “People tell you this is more like bullying than news reporting.”

Parliamentary regulations stipulate that members of Parliament driving more than 15,000 kilometres per year are required to use a rental car rather than their personal vehicle – a rule not every MP follows. Ásmundur, who clocked some 48,000 kilometres last year, said that rental cars are used and not in good condition. Despite this, he has conceded the point and will switch to a rental car, Vísir reports.

Ásmundur drives a Kia Sportage, which rolled onto Icelandic streets in March 2016. Ásmundur bought his in December of the same year. Ásmundur did a lot of driving last year – about 48,000 kilometres worth.

FÍB calculated not only fuel costs, but also tune-ups, tires, insurance, taxes, parking, cleaning, and other related expanses, for a KIA Sportage. By their estimate, Ásmundur’s total travel expenses for the amount of driving he did should be no more than just over 2 million ISK.

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