Icelandic Status Quo: Out With the Old, In With the Old

Icelandic Status Quo: Out With the Old, In With the Old

The Schrödinger’s PM is out of the box. He is apparently alive and in good spirit. A new PM has been sworn into office. In fact, nothing has changed in Iceland!

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced that he stepped down from his post as Prime Minister but will remain as the Chairman of the Progressive Party and still sit in the Parliament as a normal MP. He will be replaced by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, vice chairman of the same party. Sigurður, born in 1962, has served as Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture as well as Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources earlier. The new Prime Minister said that the government will focus on the political questions of dismantling capital controls, housing and healthcare.

The Government announced that there will be new elections in the fall, but no date has been set. They also said that the re-election will take place, only if they manage to progress on some of the political tasks that the government set out to do. This can be seen as an implicit threat to the opposition that they better let them pass their political agenda or there won’t be re-elections.

Confusion continues

The communication from the government is continuously unclear with mixed messages being sent. Höskuldur Þórhallsson (Progressive Party) says there will be an interim government. Bjarni Benediktsson (Independence Party) clearly says he does not want an interim government.

It was communicated that Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will become a new minister but at first it was unclear on what post. Other sources says she would be an assistant to the new Prime Minister. Sigurður said that the appointment of new Agriculture minister would be announced in the morning. Later it was reported that Lilja would take this role. Finally it was confirmed that Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will become the new Foreign Minister. The current Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson (previously on a state visit to India that he had to break off early) will now become the new Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.

Pirate Party Iceland with clear solutions

Pirate MPs say it is “especially offensive” that the former Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, continues to sit as a general Member of Parliament as well as the Chairman of the Progressive Party. The Pirate MP’s also declared their full support of the protests outside the Icelandic Parliament and underline: “We must listen to them and push for new elections as soon as possible”.

In the question “what would be the next steps to restore the stability in the country”? they clearly answer:

  1. Set a date for new elections, (in a few weeks).
  2. After the election we need to establish a new foundation to build our society – we have to continue and finalize the adoption of a new constitution: We cannot restore full stability until we have a new constitution.

“People in Iceland are sick of corruption and nepotism. The Icelandic Pirate Party will not be able to solve all of the ingrown problems in Iceland but it will certainly be able to offer new hardware, complete with a new set of rules based on how we operate as a collective community. We want to be the Robin Hood of power: We take away the power from the powerful and give it to the general public of Iceland. Our strongest weapons are our plans to enact a new constitution which has great democratic provisions civil engagement tools such as the web platform ‘Better Iceland‘ “

The Pirate MP’s has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions that provides further answers to their thinking.

Feeding the Anger

The Finance Minister of Iceland, Bjarni Benediktsson, says that we should not personalize the problem of off-shore tax havens. I guess we should threat them as secret and not tied to persons, as these companies were set up to be in the first place. Bjarni has managed to avoid most criticism so far but this might change now that the Prime Minister has stepped down. A poll shows that 69% of respondents want Bjarni to resign.

One of the proudest achievments of the current Government is that they sent a lot of bankers to jail. However, now it turns out that a change in legislation will turn several of this bankers jail time into a light house arrest instead. The change in legislation (which passed on March 16th) was mainly fought for by the Independence Party MP, Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir. Left-Green MP Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir told reporters: “This seems to have been handcrafted for [the bankers]. I generally support the increased use of electronic surveillance [as opposed to prison]. But we need to have a discussion about what crimes this new law would apply to”. Today three of these bankers will move to a half-way house where they are free to leave as long as they return every night.

The Government continues to act arrogant and does not seem to realize that they ought to start building up trust again rather than kick downwards. When asked about recent poll results the Minister of Finance, Bjarni Benediktsson said the following: “The results waver and are not to be trusted, they go up and down. The opposition is garbage and there is just one party (PPIS), that got a temporary following, which barely managed to crawl into Althingi in the last elections”.

Icelanders remain in the streets continuing their protests demanding that the goverment resign and launch snap elections. The fourth night of protests still attracted several thousand people since most see the “new” government as status quo.

Debate on the confidence for the Government

Friday the 8th of April brought a debate on the ‘no confidence vote’ into the agenda for the Parliament. Following is a summary of the few statements different members of Parliament made.

The new Prime Minister, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, claims all is good in his first speech. Mostly he asked for more time to finish what the government started. Sigurður also states that a motion of distrust should be lifted first when the government hasn’t performed, this government has only been here for a day.

Óttarr Proppé says that it’s unbelievable that no one in the Government takes responsibility or gives an excuse. There is a lot of talk about money but none about morality. The protesters are not voicing demands about money. They want to see a Government that has morality. Óttarr also reminds the Parliament that the coalition parties actually promised their voters a referendum on EU accession process, which they didn’t deliver, so why trust them now?

The Former Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð, takes the stand with an aggressive and non-apologetic speech.
He says that the opposition has no arguments against the current government. The mistrust from the opposition is not about facts but rather hate, anger, hopelessness and fear. Sigmundur is saying that the Opposition is power hungry.

Following the debate the ‘Vote of no confidence’ started in Parliament accompanied by loud music and chants of “incompetent government” from protesters in the background. The blocks stood united with 38 Government votes against and 25 Opposition votes for. Following the vote of no confidence was a vote about dissolving Parliament and announcing re-elections. The Independence Party MP, Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir, breaks her block vote and votes yes to re-election. However, the rest of the blocks still stand and thus the motion failed with 37-26 votes. Protesters go mad outside Parliament.

Featured image: Copyright with permission, @asta_fish