Iceland's Government Has Collapsed
September 18, 2017 8:58 AM   Subscribe

The coalition government ruling Iceland has collapsed over restoring legal status to convicted rapists. New elections for the Alþingi (Icelandic Parliment) have been set for the end of October. Warning: Some articles describe sexual abuse of minors.

Icelandic law denies full legal rights to people convicted of certain crimes, including sexual assault. "Restored Honor" requires a formal process including letters of recommendation. While the identity of recommendation letter writers is public record, the Independence Party, the leading party in the coalition government, has blocked release of those identities in a number of high profile cases involving the sexual abuse of minors. The revelation that the father of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson was among the letter writers was followed by the Bright Future party withdrawing from the coalition, leading to the collapse.

The Minister of Justice is recommending revising or possibly eliminating the system.

The collapse is threatening both international politics (including possibly complicating Brexit) and domestic issues, including constitutional reforms advocated by the Pirate Party since the 2016 elections.

2016 Icelandic Elections previously
posted by GenjiandProust (40 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The last link before the "previously" is a bit dated, but describes the Pirate Party's reform ideas toward the end. I couldn't find anything newer that wasn't in Icelandic or pretty vague.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:01 AM on September 18


disgusting
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:04 AM on September 18


Glad to see a post about this. I saw the story in a twitter thread last week but didn't have the inside knowledge to write it up myself
posted by thecjm at 9:08 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


This is the third right wing government in a row* to fall apart mid term due to scandal, and yet they keep getting elected.

* There was a left wing government in the middle there, which completed a full term without falling apart, but got voted out for (to simplify) not fixing all the problems the previous right wing government created fast enough.
posted by Nothing at 9:15 AM on September 18 [28 favorites]


One minor consequence: the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has just registered a .is domain, in the belief that it could only be revoked by an act of parliament, and thus is safe until after the next elections.
posted by acb at 9:27 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


So this "restored honor" business is a weird aspect of Icelandic law. If you've committed a serious crime, you are barred from certain privileges even after you've served the term of your jailtime. For example, you can't run for office, become a priest in the state church, or serve in court. To get these privileges back you can apply to the ministry of justice to have your "honor restored". One of the prerequisites is that the applicant supply three letters from unrelated individuals in good standing certifying that the applicant had mended their ways. The first thing to note is that these letters have seemingly gotten very little scrutiny. In the last couple of days it has come out that some of these letters were written years before the relevant court cases, seemingly as recommendation letters for jobs, and that others had believed they were intended for completely different purposes. Crucially however, the Prime Minister's father (who is a lawyer) knew what he was putting his name to.

The whole scandal started because a man who had served jailtime for multiple counts of statutory rape had successfully applied to have his honor restored in September of last year. This was so that he could begin working again as a lawyer. Some of his victims and their families spoke about this to the media, causing lots of anger in society. The victims wanted to know who had written the three letters required. The media and wider public joined in. The minister of justice, who is a member of the right-wing Independence Party, refused to release the names, even though the law states that it should be public information. It also came up that another man who'd gotten his honor restored was a man who had served jailtime for sexually abusing his stepdaughter for thirteen years and had begun harassing her again.

This went on for a few months, with lots of weird sideshows, the most important of which was that the current prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, at one point seemed to suggest that he had been acting minister of justice when the restoration of honor applications were processed. In August he clarified that he hadn't been.

Finally, last week the institution which adjudicates whether the government should release information or not ruled in favor of release. That's when it came up that the man who'd abused his stepdaughter had supplied a letter of improved character from the father of the prime minister. Furthermore it came out that the minister of justice had told the prime minister this in July. The Bright Future party promply resigned from government. No other party was ready to come in and prop up the prime minister, triggering a snap election.

There haven't been massive demonstrations like there were after the financial collapse and the Panama Papers revelations. Bjarni Benediktsson has been spinning this as his father's act of unwise kindness, and the idea that you shouldn't have your relatives held against you is very strong in Icelandic culture. It's still early days but the signs are that the Independence Party will get somewhere between 25-30% of the vote (last year they received 29%).

These events should be put into the context of a feminist activism in recent years. In the last five years various feminist groups as well as individuals have challenged Icelandic attitudes on sexual abuse and women's rights. That this issue has brought down a government is thanks to these activists. A lot more Icelanders care about the victims of rape and sexual abuse than did even five years ago. That is the good news.

The depressing aspect of all this is that Bjarni Benediktsson seems to be in no danger of losing his position as leader of the Independence Party, and is likely to still be leading the largest party in parliament. That is a sign of just how strong rape culture is in Iceland.
posted by Kattullus at 9:35 AM on September 18 [151 favorites]


One minor consequence: the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has just registered a .is domain, in the belief that it could only be revoked by an act of parliament, and thus is safe until after the next elections.

Well they should've spent 5 minutes Googling that shit. Hate speech is illegal in Iceland, and ISNIC has revoked a domain name before without an act of parliament.
posted by papercrane at 9:36 AM on September 18 [11 favorites]


What was the actual relationship between the Prime Minister's father and Hjalta Sigurjón Hauksson? He seems to be a bus driver, from badly google-translated Icelandic news sites.
posted by benzenedream at 9:47 AM on September 18


Kattullus -- thanks for all the extra context!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


This is a bit of a difficult story for me to follow as a foreigner, because there are a lot of pieces that require significant context in order to make sense (even when I can follow the Icelandic reporting, which is not always), so I was looking forward to hearing Kattullus's take. The feminist context is especially important, I think. Even if, as it seems, this does not significantly affect the Independence Party in the end, it is still a meaningful change in that sense. I have a few friends who were in tears the next day because issues of sexual assault were being taken seriously enough by society to bring down the government.
posted by Nothing at 9:55 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]


i keep thinking how this country has had two strikes by women and that this is a Good Thing.

this is some crazy bullshit. you abuse your stepdauther for THIRTEEN YEARS you get to go find another job because being a lawyer ain't for you.

go do something where the fate of other people doesn't rest with you. and where you aren't going to be in close proximity to minors in a closed room under the auspices of trust.
posted by sio42 at 9:56 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


This reads very oddly to me. An American lawyer convicted of serious felonies would have a great deal of difficulty being readmitted to the bar, but it's not a matter of governmental regulation.

American felons are excluded from a number of civic rights, including the vote in many states. That's an injustice. I'm not sure all of the exclusions detailed are defensible. But supporting someone's civic restoration casually or lightly under this particular system shows very poor judgment indeed. However, I am confused as to why the prime minister is responsible for his father's poor judgment.
posted by praemunire at 10:12 AM on September 18 [9 favorites]


as I understand it, the prime minister is not responsible for his father's bad judgement, but is being held responsible for covering up evidence of his father's bad judgement.

Which is as it should be. Anyone with abusers in their family or in their circle of acquaintances knows that the abusers would never be able to do the damage they do without the presence of people willing to cover up for and excuse their behavior; people who find themselves becoming accomplices to abuse out of denial or out of a simple lazy refusal to rock the boat. It sounds like both the PM and his father fall into this category.

This is a serious problem and it is absolutely right for bright future to bring down the government over it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:27 AM on September 18 [20 favorites]


American felons are excluded from a number of civic rights, including the vote in many states. That's an injustice. I'm not sure all of the exclusions detailed are defensible. But supporting someone's civic restoration casually or lightly under this particular system shows very poor judgment indeed.

Yeah, I don't think the issue here is whether Iceland's prohibitions on convicted felons are reasonable. It is why the procedure was disregarded in this particular case. Like, I certainly don't support disenfranchising felons here, but if an important person's family helped re-enfranchise an unreformed one in an opaque administrative process, I would trust that politician less.


However, I am confused as to why the prime minister is responsible for his father's poor judgment.


He isn't, but I get the sense from the articles that he may have been instrumental in ensuring that his father's identity was not disclosed. That doesn't seem to be explicitly stated in the articles, though, so I'm not sure.
posted by andrewpcone at 10:28 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]


However, I am confused as to why the prime minister is responsible for his father's poor judgment.
posted by praemunire at 1:12 PM on September 18 [+] [!]


From what I understand-Benediktsson is the current Prime Minister, as well as the chairman of the Independence Party (the current leading party). He tried to skirt around the law and do other questionable deeds in order to keep hidden legally public information-that his father restored honor to a pedophile who committed innumerable amounts of assault to a minor over the course of 12 years.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:29 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


please, Icelanders and Iceland-adjacent people, please please help me stop romanticizing your island. I'm like unfashionably in love with it. I know objectively that it's not the Star Trek: TNG future it sometimes seems to be, but god it seems like the only place on this benighted planet that's even in a position to try to become the Star Trek: TNG future.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:30 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, I'm at work and can't read all the articles - but from what I have read, I've yet to see a reason why the former PM pardoned that sack of shit? Except "he was an old friend".
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:35 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


It was his dad, not the pm himself, and it's not a pardon, but instead a letter of recommendation for something very much like a pardon, but aside from that it seems like you're right. basically the pm's dad provided a required element for the pardon of a piece of shit rapist, solely because said piece of shit rapist was an old friend, and the pm abused the power of his office to cover up that his dad had done this.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:42 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


benzenedream: What was the actual relationship between the Prime Minister's father and Hjalta Sigurjón Hauksson? He seems to be a bus driver, from badly google-translated Icelandic news sites.

Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson (the man who abused his stepdaughter) works primarily as a bus driver. Benedikt Sveinsson, the Prime Minister's father, owns a bus company.

Incidentally, the lawyer was named Róbert Árni Hreiðarsson. He changed his name back to his birth name, which weirdly happens to be Róbert Downey (his father was American).
posted by Kattullus at 11:19 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


My impression, and please, icelanders correct me if I'm off course, is that the Independence Party has been in power a long time (since the early 80s?) with only brief gaps. They also seem to have a large party membership, so there could be an aspect of "party machine" politics where people are writing letters because they've been asked to do so as a favor to a "friend of a friend" rather than out of any knowledge or conviction of an applicant' reformation (or even crimes). The "honor restoration" system seems to have poor oversight, with letters not being vetted and so on, so who you know is more important than what you did.

Having lived in RI for a while now, I see this sort of small, entrenched power structure play out similarly every year or so....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:31 AM on September 18


In Michael Booth's The Almost Nearly Perfect People: the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, the (somewhat slim) section on Iceland suggests that its problems come from being too Nordic for its own good; that the strong social connections and consensus-seeking culture of Scandinavia, when scaled down to a society of 330,000 people (almost all of whom can look up how they're related to each other in a genealogical database) tends to yield corruption and patronage politics. And the Independence Party's grip on the establishment (and ability to suppress warnings of the upcoming financial crisis before it happened; it took the Reyjkavík Grapevine, an English-language free paper for tourists, to do serious journalism there) is a manifestation of this. Child-rapists being able to buy themselves out of criminal records, it seems, is another.
posted by acb at 11:45 AM on September 18 [11 favorites]


ACB: that's an excellent argument in favor of immigration: it keeps societies from getting too homogenous and close-knit. Difference and diversity means we have to have impersonal, but just* laws to follow and not "So-and-so is Just Like Me and I've known him all my life, therefore, he must be an OK person."

*Obviously, this is more in principle than in practice; just ask anyone who isn't white and middle-class or above in the US. But ideally, laws work better and more justly than patronage networks.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:32 PM on September 18 [8 favorites]


This "restored honor" concept is really interesting. I would actually go for it to be somewhat more medieval: "Honor" can only be restored if the direct victim says so in addition to any other requirements. Letters of recommendation from the PM's dad and other supposed luminaries? Nice, but your victim can completely block that. You're not allowed back into decent society until you are forgiven by those you hurt the most.

* Harassing the victim about restoration is a crime which, in addition to other penalties, permanently removes the possibility of said restoration.
* Each count of a crime can have X victims as set by a judge (kill a mother, each of the kids is a victim, at the least).
* A victim's death without forgiveness imposes an automatic penalty of 20 years wait before restoration.

I'm feeling vengeful today.
posted by aureliobuendia at 1:11 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


"Honor" can only be restored if the direct victim says so in addition to any other requirements.

Letting victims appear before parole boards keeps people in prison longer and does not affect recidivism in the slightest. The "correct" sort of victims would also get more weight in this scenario, which they already have at the other end of the justice system when police and prosecutors and judges and juries decide whom to go after hardest.

Your "feeling vengeful" leads only to the further development of a permanent underclass, and it comes mostly from the already less-privileged.
posted by Etrigan at 1:19 PM on September 18 [12 favorites]


For what it's worth, as I haven't read the book, but what little I've read of Michael Booth's writing about Iceland, he doesn't seem to know much at all. There are some weird misconceptions and spurious hot takes. Also, while I wrote for many years for The Reykjavík Grapevine, and consider it an exemplary magazine in Iceland, the history of investigative journalism in Iceland is decades old. RÚV, the state broadcaster, is probably the best, but some other magazines and newspapers do good work too (notably Stundin, a recent addition to the media landscape).

Also, while I'm at it, this restoring honor business is neither a pardon nor does it erase a criminal record. It's a way to restore certain legal privileges (e.g. running for political office) which are otherwise forbidden to people who have been convicted of serious crimes. Pardons and erasing of criminal records do exist in Icelandic law, but this is a separate thing.
posted by Kattullus at 1:33 PM on September 18 [12 favorites]


Your "feeling vengeful" leads only to the further development of a permanent underclass, and it comes mostly from the already less-privileged.

Ditto this. And even if such vengeance were not doled out with racial and economic injustice, as it presumably isn't in Iceland, it would still be shitty. Respect for rule of law and human rights are incompatible with institutionalized revenge. It is a terrible thing, and vigilance about rape culture should never let us progressives think like law and order conservatives did in the 80s.

It is a tribute to Iceland's political culture that the response to this scandal isn't "Fuck rapists! Hang 'em high!" but "Elected officials who do not enforce the law impartially and consistently need to go. Honor must only be restored when that is truly deserved." Yes, their government has collapsed in the parliamentary democracy sense of the expression, but their society is in tact, and they appear to be progressing on this issue without a culture war.

I realize Nordic societies aren't the utopias they are made out to be, but damn do I wish politics worked more like this in the US.
posted by andrewpcone at 1:49 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


So here in the US, our sex offender registries are extremely regressive and are meaninglessly massive. I have had two clients who are homeless because of offender registries. I'm curious what the spectrum of feminist thought about "restored honor" in Iceland is.
posted by latkes at 2:02 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Hi, I'm the one who reported on this for Grapevine. A lot of events were moving very fast on Friday, but there's a couple things I want to address here.

The main point of contention here is that the PM knew that his dad had signed off on this vouch for a rapist's character last July, but kept it to himself - despite not only public outcry and anger from the survivors of the abuse perpetrated by the men whose honor was restored, but also despite requests from the media. He said at a press conference last Friday that this was because the Ministry of Justice told him that this bit of information was too sensitive to make public knowledge.

However, this doesn't really pass the smell test. The PM is a lawyer by trade, and ought to know the law. Further, it's fairly clear at this point that other members of his party knew this information, too. So he was talking to other people; just no one outside his party. Hence the controversy.

But on the "vengence" question I just want to say this:

Restored honor is not a restoration of rights; it's a restoration of privileges. This isn't like when felons can't vote. This is more like: a rapist or a child molester wants to be a barrister again. Iceland's penal system is incredibly relaxed on the punitive front. The maximum sentence you can get for the worst crimes is 18 years. Most rapists don't do more than a few months. The subject of restored honor in this scandal's case raped his stepdaughter nearly every day for 12 years from when she was five years old. He got five and half years.

You can still vote if you've committed any kind of crime. Hell, you can even go home for Christmas. But there is a limit somewhere, and committing some of the most serious crimes can bar you from being able to work at certain privileged professions. Restored honor is a means of getting your civil standing back so you can regain those privileges, and it's for this reason that it's controversial here.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:30 PM on September 18 [41 favorites]


"Honor" can only be restored if the direct victim says so in addition to any other requirements.

Then it can never be restored in the case of murder - or any other crime after which the victim dies before the perpetrator gets out of prison. OTOH, it'd be more likely to be restored if the victim had a strong sense of forgiveness - meaning there's an incentive to choose victims most likely to do so.

There is no way "give the victim final say in restoration" doesn't set off multiple varieties of injustice.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:28 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


complicating brexit?

that's like making a black hole blacker
posted by effugas at 4:34 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Letting victims appear before parole boards keeps people in prison longer and does not affect recidivism in the slightest. The "correct" sort of victims would also get more weight in this scenario, which they already have at the other end of the justice system when police and prosecutors and judges and juries decide whom to go after hardest.

I apologize, I think I did the thing where something is clear in my head but didn't put it in my words. I assumed that the situation was post state-level punishment, that is, the criminal has served his or her time. I agree that, when it comes to incarceration, we have ample evidence of the difficulties of victims contributing to parole hearings, etc. Instead, I was referring to post-time-served, specifically this Icelandic concept of "restoring honor". So my proposal would be that the victim has no more or less say than they already do with respect to incarceration. Instead, the victim has direct say over whether or not a convict who has served his or her time has his or her honor restored. Is that clearer?

One of the cases specifically dealt with a rapist who wanted to be able to be a lawyer again, post-incarceration. To distill my point, I think that the rapist's victim should have a say in whether that happens, rather than some gold-plated twerps who think that the criminal in question is an okay guy.

Your "feeling vengeful" leads only to the further development of a permanent underclass, and it comes mostly from the already less-privileged.

Again, clarifying that my proposal would come into effect post-incarceration. And, to further clarify, only has an effect on whether honor is restored.

That being said, I do acknowledge that I would have to know a lot more about what restoring honor means. Clearly the equivalent of the Icelandic bar association will not permit a convicted rapist back in their ranks. Presumably someone who can get a prime minister's father to write a letter of recommendation has sufficient connections to work again. But that might not be the case for those less privileged. In such instances, I admit that my conception may have some issues or lead to less than ideal outcomes.
posted by aureliobuendia at 6:43 PM on September 18


Your "feeling vengeful" leads only to the further development of a permanent underclass, and it comes mostly from the already less-privileged.

Ditto this. And even if such vengeance were not doled out with racial and economic injustice, as it presumably isn't in Iceland, it would still be shitty. Respect for rule of law and human rights are incompatible with institutionalized revenge. It is a terrible thing, and vigilance about rape culture should never let us progressives think like law and order conservatives did in the 80s.


I acknowledge my poor wording and further poor source. I concur that vengeance is not and should not be the basis of punishment or any sort of "justice".
posted by aureliobuendia at 6:45 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


"Honor" can only be restored if the direct victim says so in addition to any other requirements.

Then it can never be restored in the case of murder - or any other crime after which the victim dies before the perpetrator gets out of prison.


Well, I did try to deal with that in one of the proposals. That there might be some notion of the living (relatives, etc.) who were deprived of the victim's presence acting as arbiters.

OTOH, it'd be more likely to be restored if the victim had a strong sense of forgiveness - meaning there's an incentive to choose victims most likely to do so.

I think the likelihood of a murderer, rapist, or other criminal choosing a target based on whether, post-trial, post-incarceration, that target would be the forgiving sort, is vanishingly small compared to other proximate and more powerful motivations for crimes.

There is no way "give the victim final say in restoration" doesn't set off multiple varieties of injustice.

And yet we have two cases here, a rapist and a pedophile, where further injustices were visited upon victims who had no say in restoration. It seems these options are both imperfect. There may be other options, or there may be refinements to be made or details to be clarified.

Ultimately, I am wondering whether someone who committed a crime of a certain heinous character (murder, rape, pedophilia), should ever have their life restored to a sense or actuality of wholeness. One could argue that time in prison removes any semblance or hope of wholeness. But it seems galling, at least to me, that you could re-achieve your previous station in life after commission of heinous crimes. Still, I can absolutely see your point and Etrigan's about how this can lead to terrible consequences.

I would ask whether it is worthwhile to ensure that the rapist lawyer is never actually a lawyer again. And then I should ask whether that punishment can be meted out without condemning the person with a record due partially to economic and social injustices to a life without work, shelter, or food. If we can't have the first without the second, that is unacceptable.
posted by aureliobuendia at 7:11 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Things like this remind me that Iceland's population is 334,000. So it is the equivalent of East Portland running a country, to put it into perspective.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:50 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I think maybe the discussion about the honor restoration system (which yeah is weird) is maybe less important than the fact that the PM covered up his family's role in this particular honor restoration. Like, if the PM's father believed that everyone can be rehabilitated, even this dude, and was willing to publicly say "hey, I honestly believe that this guy deserves to have his honor restored," that's one thing.

but writing a letter and then covering up that you've written a letter is another thing altogether.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:42 AM on September 19 [10 favorites]


I mean I'm sort of biased-by-long-distance interest here — my impression is that Iceland has maybe the best political party in the world (the left-greens) and also maybe the most interesting party in the world (the pirates), and instead people keep putting those corrupt twerps from the independence party in charge? galling!

but I mean if Katrín Jakobsdóttir were PM and she covered up for abuse like this, I'd want her out, just as much as I want this Independence Parrty twerp out.

tbf tho that's easy to say, cause it's pretty hard to imagine Katrín Jakobsdóttir covering up for abusers...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:47 AM on September 19 [4 favorites]


The first opinion poll since the government collapsed has been released.

Since You Can't Tip a Buick mentioned Katrín Jakobsdóttir, I'll start by saying that her Left-Green Movement (an environmentally conscious social democratic party) polled at 23%, which is up 7% from last year's election. Continuing from left to right, the Social Democratic Alliance (social democrats, of course) polled at 5%, which is about the same as last year. The Pirate Party (also social democrats, but focused on civil liberties and transparency) polled at 14%, same as last year. Bright Future (neoliberal-leaning social democrats) polled at 7%, again same as last year. The Progressive Party (centrist party whose base is farmers and small villages) polled at 10%, down one percent from last year. The Reform Party (neoliberal party) polled at 5%, which is half of what they got last year. The Independence party (economically liberal and socially conservative) led by Bjarni Benediktsson, polled at 23%, down 6% from last year.

Finally, The People's Party, a recently formed populist right-wing party (i.e. racists) polled at 11%. That's worrying, to say the least. However, they were only founded a few months ago. The leader is a political neophyte and so far it's completely unknown who'll be running for office alongside her. Until then, it's a bit hard to take their notional support in polls seriously. That said, it's not good that 11% of those polled thought they could end up voting for them.
posted by Kattullus at 1:50 AM on September 19 [4 favorites]


A new poll came out which gives a bit more hope. This is only the third poll released (another one was released on the same day as the last one, but it was an online panel poll so it seemed not worth posting about, and it was broadly similar to the one I did write about) so there's not much data out there. I'll go from right to left this time.

The People's Party polled 9%, which is still not good but at least not an increase from last time. If nothing else this might cut a little bit of wind from their sails. The Independence Party is still polling at 23%, which is the same as in the poll I posted about last time. The Reform Party polled at 6%, just above the five percent cut off for being represented in parliament. The Progressive Party polled at 11%, which is in line with expectations. Bright Future is below the cut off at 3% and wouldn't get into parliament. The Pirate Party polled at 10%, which would be down about four percent from last year's election. The Social Democratic Alliance is polling at 8%, which would be an improvement on last year, but far from the 25%-30% it routinely received from 1999-2009. Meanwhile, the Left Green Movement polled at an astonishing 30%, which is almost certainly down to the broad popularity of its leader, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who also topped a separate poll of who people would like to see as prime minister.

If these were the results then it would be possible for the Left-Greens, Social Democrats and Pirates to form a majority government. It would be a slim majority of two members of parliament, but it would be worth a try.
posted by Kattullus at 2:02 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


In this never-a-dull-moment phase of Icelandic politics, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who last year was toppled from his post as Prime Minister following revelations in the Panama Papers that he had held money in offshore accounts, is attempting a political comeback by founding a new party. He is leaving the Progressive Party and launching the Cooperation Party (Samvinnuflokkurinn). So far it's unknown who will run with him, but the party will almost certainly be a populist right-wing party.

Meanwhile, it's near certain that before parliament dissolves there will be major changes to the laws concerning "restoring honor" (i.e. regaining legal privileges lost after a felony conviction). Other legislation might be passed, hopefully including citizenships being granted to a few asylum seekers, but no formal agreement has been reached about what parliament will meet to do and when.
posted by Kattullus at 7:30 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Oh hello there new old scandal. I woke up this morning and listened to the news on the radio. Bjarni Benediktsson's shady stock dealings in the lead up to the 2008 financial collaps are back in the news thanks to investigative reporters at Icelandic media companies and The Guardian, whose article has gone up.

Iceland PM sold bank assets hours before financial crash, leaks show. Here's an excerpt:
The current prime minister of Iceland sold almost all his remaining assets in a major Icelandic bank’s investment fund on the day the government seized control of the country’s collapsing financial sector at the peak of the 2008 crash.

According to leaked documents, Bjarni Benediktsson, then an MP on the parliament’s economy and tax committee, sold several million króna of assets in the Glitnir bank’s fund in the final days and hours before an emergency law placed Iceland’s failed financial institutions under state control.

The documents suggest Benediktsson, whose name appeared in the Panama Papers offshore scandal that toppled Iceland’s previous prime minister, talked to senior Glitnir executives on 6 October 2008, as
the country’s banking bubble was on the point of bursting.

While he denies any wrongdoing and the Guardian has seen no evidence he broke any laws, the revelations could be embarrassing: Benediktsson faces elections on 28 October after his coalition collapsed last month over an alleged attempt to cover up a scandal involving the prime minister’s father and a convicted child sex abuser.

The leaked documents, seen by Icelandic investigative journalists and the Guardian, suggest he enjoyed a privileged relationship with Glitnir, close enough to raise questions about a possible conflict of interest between his roles as an MP and as one of the bank’s most valued clients.

They also confirm that other members of the prime minister’s family – one of the richest and most powerful in the country – divested substantial assets in Glitnir’s Sjoður 9 fund in the run-up to the state takeover.

Asked whether he had personally sold assets from the fund just before the bank’s collapse, Benediktsson said last year he had “some assets at one point” but “nothing that mattered”. The leaked documents show he had ISK165m (more than £1m at the time) in the fund in March 2008.
I honestly don't know what the effect of this will be. It might be the straw that breaks the camel's back and forces the ouster of Bjarni Benediktsson from his leadership position in the right-wing Independence Party. Since there are just 22 days until the election, that's unlikely, unless there are some shocking election polls in the next few days (i.e. if they start polling below 20%, currently they're polling in the 22-25% range).
posted by Kattullus at 2:43 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


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