REVIEW: “So what’s going on in Iceland?”

A protestor throws a banana at the Parliament building.

A protestor throws a banana at the Parliament building. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Golli

Iceland Monitor has received numerous requests from media around the world in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal currently rocking the country.

“So what’s going on in Iceland?” is the most common question, closely followed by “Has the Prime Minister resigned or hasn’t he?”

The whole furore can be traced back to the story of a company owned by the Prime Minister’s wife based in the well-known tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. The company lost big in the crash of 2008 and is claiming millions from the bankruptcy estates of the failed banks.

Did Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir own Wintris Inc. alone or together ...

Did Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir own Wintris Inc. alone or together with her husband, the Prime Minister? Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eva Björk

PM Gunnlaugsson has been accused of a major conflict of interest, inasmuch as he – as PM – was instrumental in striking a deal for the banks’ claimants while himself being closely related to one of them.

A shocking exposé of the use of tax havens by prominent figures conducted simultaneously by media across the world revealed the nature of the PM’s dealings – seen by many as suspicious – in his wife’s offshore company.

The programme also connected the names of two senior government ministers with offshore dealings.

The Panama Papers scandal was exposed fully by the Kastljós ...

The Panama Papers scandal was exposed fully by the Kastljós current affairs discussion programme in Iceland. Photo: RÚV

Public anger led to large-scale demonstrations on Monday and yesterday, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister and early general elections.

The PM met with Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, yesterday morning. The issue of dissolving parliament was reportedly discussed, but presidential authorisation was not given.

The much-awaited news APPARENTLY arrived yesterday as media across the world reported that PM Gunnlaugsson had resigned. He had previously stated categorically that he would not be resigning.

PM Gunnlaugsson visiting the President yesterday.

PM Gunnlaugsson visiting the President yesterday. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert Jóhannesson

The truth of the matter is that a meeting of the PM’s parliamentary party agreed that Gunnlaugsson should step aside and allow the deputy leader of the party, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, to take over as PM.

The PM’s office sent out a statement for foreign media yesterday stating that Gunnlaugsson had not resigned, but that Jóhannsson would be “taking over the office of Prime Minister for an unspecified amount of time”.

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Iceland's new caretaker PM?

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Iceland's new caretaker PM? Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert Jóhannesson

Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson – leader of the PM’s coalition partner party – has said that he will be meeting Jóhannsson over the next few days to discuss the possibility of continuing their government partnership.

In the meantime, the anger, protests – and utter confusion – seem set to continue.

Nobody really seems to know what is going on...

Nobody really seems to know what is going on... Photo: Iceland Monitor/Árni Sæberg

Exchange rates

USD USD 107.67 EUR EUR 122.83
GBP GBP 137.17 DKK DKK 16.47
NOK NOK 12.71 SEK SEK 11.72
CHF CHF 108.08 JPY JPY 0.97
ISK price of selected currencies, according to the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Iceland. Updated daily.

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Exchange rates

USD USD 107.67 EUR EUR 122.83
GBP GBP 137.17 DKK DKK 16.47
NOK NOK 12.71 SEK SEK 11.72
CHF CHF 108.08 JPY JPY 0.97
ISK price of selected currencies, according to the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Iceland. Updated daily.