Bjarni Benediktsson has been reelected as the chair of the Independence Party on Sunday. His leadership, which many have come to see as an embodiment of establishment politics, was challenged by Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the current Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate. RÚV reports that Bjarni won the election with 59.4% of the vote, versus the 40.4% earned by Guðlaugur Þór.
The Independence Party’s National Convention is generally held every two years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been held for four and a half years. Guðlaugur’s challenge is perhaps a sign of needed change in a party whose leadership has remained frozen by recent events.
In the wake of the vote, both Bjarni and Guðlaugur Þór emphasized the importance of party unity and both anticipate that Guðlaugur Þór will retain his ministerial position. It had previously been suggested that losing the election would have political ramifications for Guðlaugur Þór.
“We have to stand together to push the party through the rebuilding phase,” said Bjarni.
Bjarni has been active in politics since 2003, when he was elected as a representative in Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament. Since then, he has also served as Iceland’s prime minister and is now both chairperson of the Independence Party, Iceland’s centre-right party, and Minister of Finance. His tenure as Minister of Finance has been punctuated by several major corruption scandals, the most recent of which revolved around the sale of Íslandsbanki shares.
Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, current Minister of Foreign Affairs, will continue to serve as the party’s vice chair. MP Vilhjálmur Árnason was elected party secretary.