Iceland: a nation run by charlatans?

Iceland is a banana republic, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche ...

Iceland is a banana republic, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeit­ung Photo: Iceland Monitor/Golli

“A nation run by charlatans.” These are the strong words used by journalist Alda Sigmundsdóttir about her native land in an opinion piece published by the Guardian yesterday.

Sigmundsdóttir’s indictment of Iceland’s political class comes after the announcement yesterday that the country’s embattled government will not be standing down, and that a replacement PM will run the show until early elections in the autumn.

German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung goes as far as to say that Iceland is a “banana republic” (link in German) and that Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson “missed his chance to resign with dignity”.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has resigned as PM over the Panama ...

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has resigned as PM over the Panama Papers scandal. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert Jóhannesson

During the announcement of Iceland’s ‘new’ government yesterday evening, incoming Prime Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson told journalists that the agreement reached will contribute to stability in Iceland.

“The government will continue working on the same major projects it has been working on – and has achieved great success in,” said Jóhannsson, standing alongside his coalition partner, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson.

He concluded that the government now needs “to be left in peace to get on with it”.

New PM Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson (left) and Finance Minister Bjarni ...

New PM Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson (left) and Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson (right) talking to press yesterday evening. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Golli

Opposition MPs were predictably scathing in their condemnation of the deal struck yesterday.

“This has been farcical from start to finish,” says leader of the Left-Green Movement Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

While admitting that elections in the autumn are a step in the right direction, Jakobsdóttir is adamant that the opposition will still bring forward their vote of no confidence and bill for dissolving parliament.

"The people have already passed their vote of no confidence," ...

"The people have already passed their vote of no confidence," says Árni Páll Árnason. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristján

Benediktsson was bullish in the face of press questions on the imminent vote of no confidence. “The 38 MPs of the Independence Party and the Progressive Party will vote it down,” he declared simply. A parliamentary majority in Iceland is 32.

He alluded to the same “major projects” mentioned by the new PM, focusing specifically on the lifting of capital controls which have been in place in Iceland since 2008. Developments are expected on this issue within the next 2-3 weeks, Benediktsson said.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir (left) and Árni Páll Árnason (right).

Katrín Jakobsdóttir (left) and Árni Páll Árnason (right). Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristinn Ingvarsson

Whether the Icelandic Parliament (‘Alþingi’) passes the opposition’s vote of no confidence or not, the Icelandic people have passed theirs, says leader of the Social Democratic Alliance Árni Páll Árnason.

“We are in the strange situation of a party polling at under 8% getting the post of Prime Minister,” he told journalists after yesterday’s announcement.

Demonstrators appear to agree with this analysis. Two more large-scale protests are planned for today – one at noon outside the presidential residence of Bessastaðir, and a second at 5pm on Austurvöllur square in central Reykjavik.

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