Þórdís Kolbrún Gylfadóttir New Minister of Justice

Pictured above: Iceland’s cabinet. Þórdís Kolbrún sits far left. Photo: Golli.

The current Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir will add the title Minister of Justice to her duties. Þórdís will take on the post temporarily, replacing Sigríður Andersen after she stepped down in the wake of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. The court ruled that Sigríður’s appointments to the Court of Appeal had been unlawful and impeded individuals’ rights to a fair trial.

This turn of events was revealed earlier today after a closed meeting was held by MPs of the Independence Party.

Þórdís Kolbrún is a member of the Independence Party and has been a member of Parliament for the Northwest constituency since 2016. She has held her role as Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation since January 2017, when she became the youngest woman to became an Icelandic minister, at the age of 29. Þórdís Kolbrún is vice chairperson of the Independence Party and replaces her fellow party member Sigríður Andersen.

“No Reason” to Deny Hatari Entry to Israel, Says Eurovision Official

Hatari

If Icelandic band Hatari is denied entry to Israel, Eurovision official Jon Ola Sand says, it could lead to backlash against the Israeli government and the competition’s organisers. The band’s members have previously expressed support for the Palestinian cause and have stated they are aiming to “forefront issues that matter,” leading many to speculate Israel would deny the band entry on a political basis.

https://www.facebook.com/hatridmunsigra/posts/691727217890772

“We see no reason why [the members of Hatari] would be denied an entry visa,” Jon Ola, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, told NRK (RÚV reported first). “We have spoken with Israeli authorities and they know that [such a decision] would have backlash for them, both them and local organisers, if someone were denied an entry visa.”

Eurovision contest rules also state that political lyrics, speeches and gestures on stage are not allowed in the preliminaries or in the Eurovision Song Contest. Hatari’s performance is heavy on fascist symbolism, BDSM attire, and lyrics predicting the impending doom of Europe and the triumph of hatred. Israeli organisation Shurat HaDin has made efforts to prevent the band’s participation in the competition, saying they believe the band will use the platform to protest the Israeli government.

Despite the contests’ rules, previous Eurovision submissions have featured political content. Ukraine’s representative Jamala won the 2016 edition with a song about the deportation of the Crimean Tartars in World War II, while Armenia’s submissions in 2010 and 2015 both discussed the Armenian Genocide.

Asylum Seekers Spent the Night in Parliament Square

Asylum seekers protest Reykjavík

Asylum seekers continue to protest in Austurvöllur square outside the Icelandic parliament, Stundin reports. Several spent the night in the square on Tuesday, doing their best to stay warm in sleeping bags. The protesters have now raised a large tent for shelter from the snow and rain.

The night was frosty, according to Milad, a refugee from Iran. “It was freezing cold, but we could do it because we had made a decision. We will be here until our demands are met. We will not leave here until we’ve achieved something. We are serious.”

Asylum seekers and their supporters have been protesting for weeks, calling for an end to deportations, as well as due process on all applications and equal access to healthcare. The group is calling for talks with the government in the presence of the state mediator, in a similar fashion to wage negotiations.

Protest organisers met with representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday at a meeting hosted by the Icelandic Red Cross. Elínborg Harpa Önundardóttir, an activist and member of No Borders Iceland, called the meeting “a spectacle, more or less,” where activists were told it “just wasn’t possible” to acquiesce to any of their demands.

New Minister of Justice Chosen Today

Sigríður Andersen

A cabinet meeting will be held at 4.00pm this afternoon to decide on a new Minister of Justice, RÚV reports. The post was vacated yesterday when Sigríður Andersen announced she would be stepping down from the position, following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that her appointments to the Icelandic Court of Appeal violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, meant to ensure individuals’ right to a fair trial.

No such thing as “temporary leave”

Though Sigríður described her departure as temporary leave, Professor of Political Science Eiríkur Bergmann says there is no precedent for such an action in Alþingi. “A minister must be appointed to office by presidential decree. Once that happens [this afternoon], Sigríður Andersen is just as much not a minister as everyone else who is not a minister.” In order to return to the post, Sigríður would need to be reappointed officially.

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson stated yesterday that it was most likely the position would be filled by a current minister or an Independence Party MP. Bjarni stated that it wasn’t out of the question for Sigríður to return to the post. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said it was too early to say whether Sigríður would return to the ministry, but previously expressed her support of her decision to step down.

Katrín and Bjarni both expressed support for appealing the European Court of Human Rights’ decision, as the outcome is consequential for the government.

GDRN Sweeps Up at Icelandic Music Awards

GDRN Icelandic Music Awards

The 2018 Icelandic Music Awards were held last night in Harpa’s Silfurberg hall. Pop artist GDRN (Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð Jóhannesdóttir) swept up at the ceremony, taking home four awards. Rapper Auður, who received eight nominations, took home two awards for songwriting and best electronic album, while controversial band Hatari left attendees with a political message.

GDRN took home the awards for best pop album, pop song, and music video of the year, and was awarded best female singer. “When I started making music in 2017 society was changing a lot, the MeToo movement was beginning,” the artist said when accepting the award for best pop album. “I have seen incredible growth among young women today and I wanted to encourage all young women who are watching this now: Let yourselves dream, let yourselves dream really big. It’s possible.”

Rapper Auður won best songwriter and best electronic album for his release Afsakanir (Excuses). Valdimar was chosen as best male singer, also winning for best rock album alongside his band. In classical categories, Víkingur Heiðar won performer of the year and album of the year for Johann Sebastian Bach. Jói Pé and Króli were awarded for best rap album and best rap song.

Hatari, who are representing Iceland at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, accepted the performer of the year award with a political message. Band member Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson stated that although the group were fans of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, it was time to “clear up for the nation whether Iceland belonged to the countries that ascribe to universal human rights, democracy, and rule of law. We’re a little confused.”

A full list of nominations and winners can be found on RÚV’s website.