Iceland government to face calls for new elections

The current Icelandic parliament ('Alþingi') could soon be dissolved.

The current Icelandic parliament ('Alþingi') could soon be dissolved. mbl.is/Eggert Jóhannesson

Icelandic voters will soon be faced with a dissolution of parliament and fresh general elections, if the country’s opposition parties get their way.

Leaders of Iceland’s four opposition parties agreed yesterday to bring a draft resolution before the national parliament (‘Alþingi’) when it reconvenes after the Easter break next week, calling for an end to the current legislature and new general elections.

Opposition leaders discussing plans yesterday.

Opposition leaders discussing plans yesterday. Photo: mbl/Golli

The move is in response to an “unprecedented situation of distrust in society” following allegations of hefty assets in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands owned by the wife of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson . The names of two senior government ministers have also been mentioned in connection with offshore assets.

“The entire parliamentary opposition agrees that this constitutes an unprecedented situation of distrust in society, which cannot go on,” says Óttar Proppé, leader of the centrist Bright Future party.

The financial affairs of the PM (left) and his wife …

The financial affairs of the PM (left) and his wife have been the subject of much discussion in Iceland recently. Photo: mbl.is/Eggert Jóhannesson

“Information on the involvement of current ministers in companies in tax havens was hidden from the Icelandic people before the last elections, and it is only right that they get to appraise the situation again,” adds Árni Páll Árnason, leader of the centre-left Social Democratic Alliance.

The opposition has agreed upon a motion to dissolve parliament and call new elections, but it is not yet clear whether the text will include a specific vote of no confidence against the PM and government.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Green Movement: "Trust between the …

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Green Movement: "Trust between the people and the policy-makers has broken down." Photo: mbl.is/Árni Sæberg

Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson remains bullish about the plans , which moved yesterday from a suggestion among the opposition to a concrete agreement.

“I am happy to see that [the opposition] seems to want to ‘man up’ and bring forward their no-confidence motion,” the PM told mbl.is (link in Icelandic).

Proud of his government's record, the Prime Minister does not …

Proud of his government's record, the Prime Minister does not fear the upcoming debate. Photo: Photo: Ómar Óskarsson

“If they wish to use parliamentary time to discuss the achievements of this government – and maybe compare them to those of the previous government – then I would be perfectly happy with that.”

Bjarni Benediktsson, Finance Minister and leader of the Independence Party (one of the two parties currently governing Iceland in coalition) is confident that the government will survive any motion to unseat it.

The Icelandic króna has been subject to capital controls since …

The Icelandic króna has been subject to capital controls since November 2008. Photo: Golli / Kjartan Þorbjörnsson

“The main role of government is to achieve for the people. We have in many respects exceeded expectations in the regard and there is therefore no reason to dissolve Alþingi,” Benediktsson explains.

He also warns of the danger to the Icelandic economy if the opposition resolution were to be passed.

“The government in half-way through its action plan for lifting capital controls – this government’s greatest economic measure. Any delay in this work could damage Iceland economically,” he warns.

Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland's Finance Minister.

Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland's Finance Minister. Photo: mbl.is/Árni Sæberg

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