Ice­land may face new elec­tion af­ter scan­dal hits govt

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD - Elias Thors­son

One of Ice­land’s three coali­tion par­ties said on Fri­day it would quit the gov­ern­ment formed less than nine months ago, cit­ing a “breach of trust” af­ter the prime min­is­ter’s party al­legedly tried to cover up a scan­dal in­volv­ing his fa­ther.

That leaves the coun­try, whose econ­omy was wrecked by the col­lapse of its bank­ing sec­tor nearly a decade ago, pos­si­bly fac­ing its sec­ond snap elec­tion in less than a year af­ter the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was felled by the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal over off­shore tax havens.

“The board of Bright Fu­ture has de­cided to ter­mi­nate co­op­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment of Bjarni Benedik­ts­son,” the party said in a state­ment on Face­book. “The rea­son for the split is a se­ri­ous breach of trust within the gov­ern­ment.”

The scan­dal cen­ters on a let­ter writ­ten by Prime Min­is­ter Benedik­ts­son’s fa­ther to help an old friend con­victed of sex of­fences against chil­dren have his crim­i­nal record ex­punged. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Si­gridur An­der­sen, a mem­ber of Benedik­ts­son’s In­de­pen­dence Party, had ini­tially re­fused to dis­close who had writ­ten the let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion, but was later or­dered to do so by a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee.

An­der­sen told broad­caster Stod 2 that she had in­formed Benedik­ts­son about his fa­ther’s in­volve­ment last July, but had not dis­closed that in­for­ma­tion to any­one else.

The third party in the cen­ter­right coali­tion, which had a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment of just one seat and took two months to form fol­low­ing an elec­tion last year, called for new polls.

“In light of the sit­u­a­tion, the Vidreisn [Re­form Party] thinks the right thing to do is to call an elec­tion im­me­di­ately,” it said in a state­ment.

The In­de­pen­dence Party had no im­me­di­ate com­ment when con­tacted by Reuters on Fri­day, but one of its law­mak­ers dis­missed talk of a new na­tional vote.

“I do not think that it’s fea­si­ble to head into an elec­tion less than 10 months since the last elec­tion,” Bryn­jar Niels­son said as he headed into a meet­ing to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

The prime min­is­ter’s fa­ther, Benedikt Sveins­son, con­firmed in a state­ment on Fri­day that he had signed a let­ter sup­port­ing the friend’s ap­pli­ca­tion to have his “honor re­stored,” a pro­ce­dure that ef­fec­tively erases a per­son’s crim­i­nal record.

Among the re­quire­ments to ob­tain the sta­tus is a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion from a close friend or as­so­ciate.

Sveins­son said he had not dis­cussed the let­ter with any­one.

“In light of all that has come forth lately, I’d like to apol­o­gize to all those who have been hurt be­cause of the mat­ter,” he said in the state­ment.

Pres­i­dent Gudni Jo­han­nes­son was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment, but an­a­lysts said he was likely to ask the cur­rent gov­ern­ment to stay in place un­til a suc­ces­sor coali­tion is formed or a new elec­tion called.

“It would not nec­es­sar­ily be a sur­prise if the prime min­is­ter wants to call an elec­tion,” said Bal­dur Thorhalls­son, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Ice­land.

“There is great po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty in Ice­land cur­rently.”

Cap­i­tal Eco­nomics econ­o­mist Stephen Brown said a change of gov­ern­ment could frus­trate plans to over­haul Ice­land’s mon­e­tary pol­icy frame­work.

“I think if there’s go­ing to be an­other elec­tion and pos­si­bly the chance of a more left-wing gov­ern­ment, then that prob­a­bly de­creases the chance of mon­e­tary pol­icy be­ing loos­ened any fur­ther in the fu­ture,” said Brown.

Reuters/Geirix

Bjarni Benedik­ts­son

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