Ice­land’s govern­ment col­lapses amid scan­dal


REYKJAVIK, ICE­LAND • Ice­land is fac­ing its sec­ond snap elec­tion in about a year af­ter the In­de­pen­dence Partyled govern­ment col­lapsed over a scan­dal in­volv­ing grants of cle­mency to con­victed child mo­lesters.

Prime Min­is­ter Bjarni Benedik­ts­son on Friday said he would con­sult with par­lia­ment to seek a new elec­tion as soon as pos­si­ble, maybe in Novem­ber.

The move comes af­ter he was aban­doned by his coali­tion part­ners, the four-law­maker Bright Fu­ture, and the Re­form Party, which has eight leg­is­la­tors.

The Bright Fu­ture party ac­cused the premier of com­mit­ting a “breach of trust” af­ter fail­ing to in­form the rest of the govern­ment that his fa­ther had writ­ten a let­ter vouch­ing for the char­ac­ter of a con­victed child mo­lester so he could ap­ply for a le­gal “clean slate.”

The is­sue has been much in the news in Ice­land, where con­victed pe­dophiles can ap­ply to have their record ex­punged. “That goes against our poli­cies here at Bright Fu­ture on trans­parency and a good way of work­ing,” said Ot­tarr Proppe, head of the Bright Fu­ture party.

Calls for a snap elec­tion were made by most of the other par­ties in par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing the Pi­rate Party, which also de­manded a vote on con­sti­tu­tional changes and called the In­de­pen­dence Party “un­fit for govern­ment.”

Protests were called for Friday in Reykjavik, the site of ma­jor street demon­stra­tions both af­ter the coun­try’s eco­nomic col­lapse in 2008 and last year fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tions of the Panama Pa­pers. Benedik­ts­son’s name also sur­faced in con­nec­tion with that scan­dal, but he said he had pre­vi­ously dis­closed his off­shore hold­ings.

The premier said on Friday that he was “shocked” to hear of his fa­ther’s let­ter, never tried to con­ceal any­thing and was never part of the de­ci­sion process in the cases in ques­tion.

“Ice­land’s Jimmy Sav­ile case: Our PM, who was in the Panama Pa­pers, has hid­den for two months his fa­ther’s sup­port for a pe­dophiles cle­mency,” Smari McCarthy, a Pi­rate Party mem­ber of par­lia­ment, said on Twit­ter.

The tur­moil has sur­faced just as the coali­tion was pre­sent­ing the bud­get to par­lia­ment and meet­ings were can­celled in the leg­is­la­ture on Friday.

Benedik­ts­son said he would seek to con­tinue as party leader, and that he be­lieves the In­de­pen­dents can “gain strength” in an elec­tion. “There is a lot of tur­bu­lence at the mo­ment,” he said. But “I think that when the dust set­tles peo­ple will see there is no cor­rup­tion, there is no hid­ing of ev­i­dence.”

The coali­tion that col­lapsed had only a one-seat ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, and was cob­bled to­gether ear­lier this year af­ter long ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Ice­land’s pre­vi­ous govern­ment un­rav­elled when then­prime min­is­ter Sig­mundur David Gunnlaugs­son be­came the most high-pro­file ca­su­alty of the so-called Panama Pa­pers.

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