Update: The Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, has now officially announced his resignation. His deputy will continue on his stead until a new leader can be chosen.
The Panama Papers leak which has painted targets on the backs of many of the world’s leading politicians with suggestions of corruption and money laundering, has caused a real headache for Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. With calls for an early election to be held, recent polls suggest the local Pirate Party could take control of the country in the near future.
Although politicians like British PM David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been implicated in the scandal, for their father and friend’s money laundering respectively, Gunnlaugsson has been personally implicated as part of the leak. He has been found in ownership of a company worth millions of pounds during Iceland’s financial crisis and even sold it to his wife in 2009, for $1 to hide his involvement.
That firm also had interest in several banks that failed in the financial crash. Banks that Gunnlaugsson defended should not have to repay deposits owed to foreign creditors in full.
The company in question was known as Wintris and it operated since 2007, as an off-shore (and off the books) fund for Gunnlaugsson and his wife. He maintained a 50 per cent share in it for two years, before selling it to his wife for a pittance. However he never declared his involvement or financial benefit from owning a large stake in the firm, which is placing him in very hot water.
Just yesterday, some 22,000 people took to the streets of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, to call for him to stand down. To put that into context, with a population of just 330,000, that’s close to seven per cent of the entire country showing up.
— Seth Sharp (@sharpseth) April 4, 2016
So far Gunnlaugsson has refused to step down as some have suggested and with a coalition majority, he will be able to block calls for an early election if everyone toes the line. However, if some of his own party, or that of the coalition member Independence Party were to rebel, we could see a general election held in Iceland more than a year before it is expected.
Where things get really interesting, is how the political landscape in Iceland has changed since the 2013 election. Back then, the Pirate Party was a brand new entity and it still managed to garner three seats in parliament. Since then its popularity has soared, with all recent polls painting it as the most popular party in the country.
If an early election is held, the anti-corruption, pro-free speech, pro-sharing party, could well become the first Pirate majority in European politics, giving it a huge stage to broadcast its message.
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KitGuru Says: If there isn’t some way to force Gunnlaugsson to step down, there should be. Here’s hoping the other politicians see that the writing is on the wall.