Bjarni and Þórdís Swap in Ministerial Reshuffle Skip to content
bjarni benediktsson
Photo: Golli.

Bjarni and Þórdís Swap in Ministerial Reshuffle

Changes to the government were announced on Saturday, October 14. Former Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson is now Foreign Minister and former Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Gylfadóttir is now Finance Minister.

The ministerial swap was announced at Edda, the new Centre for Icelandic Studies, and the ministers formally took on their new roles at Bessastaðir, the presidential residence.

Read more: Bjarni Benediktsson Sits for Last Parliamentary Session as Finance Minister

The ministerial swap is considered especially significant given the current political and economic situation, including upcoming wage negotiations, high inflation, and the still-unfolding aftermath of the controversial Íslandsbanki share auction.

Bjarni resigned from office on October 10 when the Parliamentary Ombudsman issued an official statement criticizing his handling of the March 2022 sale, in which a group of “qualified investors” were given priority to purchase Íslandsbanki shares. Among these qualified investors was Benedikt Sveinsson, the father of the now-former Finance Minister.

According to the weekend announcement, another minister is needed to reach an agreement on the sale of Íslandsbanki. Bjarni claims to have found majority support in parliament to continue selling the state’s stake in Íslandsbanki, though he has acknowledged that opinions like those presented by the Parliamentary Ombudsman have made it difficult for him to lead this effort.

Trading places

Finance Minister Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir stressed the importance of finalising the sale of Íslandsbanki in her first statement to the press. She expressed her excitement for the tasks ahead in her new position, stating that “the tasks I take upon myself are always on my mind.”

According to the new Finance Minister, the fight against inflation and better utilization of public funds are among the most pressing tasks ahead. She also stated that she is ready to take on a leadership position within the Independence Party, Iceland’s centre-right party and a member of the current governing coalition, when the time comes.

Bjarni stated to RÚV that he was excited to take over duties at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time,” he stated, adding that he was focused on “not worrying too much” over the past few days.

A revolving door

Ólafur Þ. Harðarson, a professor of political science, stated to RÚV that the news did not come as a surprise.

According to Ólafur, although there has been some tension within the coalition, he believes that the government is stronger now than if Bjarni had left the government.

However, Ólafur stated that it is unusual for a minister to shoulder responsibility by resigning and moving to another ministerial position.

“Some have said that such a revolving door policy is unprecedented in the Nordics,” he stated. However, he highlighted Denmark as a recent example of such ministerial reshuffling, adding: “Such practices are not without precedent, though it is not common practice throughout the region.”

 

 

 

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