Perhaps unsurprisingly, voters for the Independence Party were of very different opinions from voters for other parties. The poll was conducted from April 23rd through 27th, with 1,669 people contacted and a response rate of 52.7%.
Of those who responded, 87% believed that the sale was at least poorly handled, with 68% saying they believe the law was broken. About 25% of Independence Party voters though said they were satisfied with the sale, with 77% of them believing no law was broken.
The parliamentary opposition has called for an independent investigative committee to examine the process of the sale, while the ruling coalition believes instead that the matter should wait for the results of examinations conducted by The Icelandic National Audit Office (INAO) and the Central Bank. 73% of poll respondents support the independent committee idea, while 74% of Independence Party voters believe that the INAO examination is enough.
As reported, Íslandsbanki has been owned by the Icelandic treasury since the wake of the 2008 financial crash, but Bjarni has been very keen on selling shares of the bank to private interests again. The most recent sale of shares amounting to a 22.5% stake in the bank has caused considerable criticism, not least of all when it was revealed that one of the share buyers in the closed and discounted sale of shares was none other than Bjarni’s father.
While Bjarni has denied any knowledge that his father was amongst the buyers, the law on selling government shares of financial institutions outlines the process for this sale. Article 4 clearly details: “When an offer [to buy shares] is submitted, Icelandic State Financial Investments [ISFI] submits the offer to the Minister with the reasoning for the sale. The Minister decides whether the offer will be accepted or denied and signs the agreement on behalf of the government on the sale of the shares.”
Since then, there have been numerous calls for Bjarni’s resignation, and he has been under fire in Parliament, fielding questions from numerous MPs. The ruling coalition, including Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, have defended him, saying that sale of further shares in Íslandsbanki will be put on hold pending results from investigations by INAO and the Central Bank.
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