Ice­land’s prime min­is­ter steps down

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

COPENHAGEN — Ice­land’s pres­i­dent on Satur­day ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion of the vol­canic is­land’s prime min­is­ter, who says a new elec­tion will prob­a­bly be held on Nov. 4.

Prime Min­is­ter Bjarni Benedik­ts­son lost his 9month-old, cen­ter-right coali­tion af­ter one party quit over an at­tempt by the prime min­is­ter’s fa­ther to help clear the name of a con­victed pe­dophile.

Pres­i­dent Gudni Jo­han­nes­son met Satur­day with Benedik­ts­son and was meet­ing with other party lead­ers later in the day.

A small cen­trist party, Bright Fu­ture, quit the rul­ing coali­tion Fri­day af­ter it emerged that Benedik­ts­son’s fa­ther had writ­ten a let­ter urg­ing a par­don for Hjalti Sig­ur­jon Hauks­son, who was con­victed in 2004 of rap­ing his step­daugh­ter al­most ev­ery day for 12 years.

Un­der Ice­land’s judicial sys­tem, a per­son who has served a sen­tence for a se­ri­ous crime can ap­ply to author­i­ties to “re­store their honor” and seek em­ploy­ment again, mean­ing their crim­i­nal record is erased. For that, a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion by a close friend or an as­so­ciate is needed.

Benedik­ts­son took of­fice in Jan­uary, unit­ing his In­de­pen­dence Party, the Re­form Party and the cen­trists.

To­gether they held the slimmest of ma­jori­ties — 32 of the 63 seats in Par­lia­ment af­ter the Oct. 29 elec­tion, which was called af­ter the former prime min­is­ter re­signed amid protests over his off­shore hold­ings that were re­vealed in the “Panama Pa­pers” leak.

When it emerged that some gov­ern­ment mem­bers had kept in­for­ma­tion from the public about the let­ter seek­ing to clear Hauks­son’s record, Bright Fu­ture said it was quit­ting.

Benedik­ts­son said Fri­day that some Ice­landic laws were “com­pletely out of sync with mod­ern val­ues,” ac­cord­ing to the na­tion’s largest news­pa­per, Morgun­bla­did. He was quoted as say­ing he was “in shock” when he heard about the let­ter.

Benedik­ts­son, a former fi­nance min­is­ter, was also named in the Panama Pa­pers as hav­ing held a stake in a Sey­chelles-based in­vest­ment com­pany.

Ice­land is a wind-lashed is­land near the Arc­tic Cir­cle with a pop­u­la­tion of about 335,000. It suf­fered years of eco­nomic up­heaval af­ter the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis but now is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a surge in tourism.

Har­al­dur Gud Jon­s­son AFP/Getty Images

HIS FA­THER’S at­tempt to help a pe­dophile cost Prime Min­is­ter Bjarni Benedik­ts­son his coali­tion.

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