Tape Reveals Geir Haarde Appointed Ambassador as Political Favour Skip to content
Photo: Former prime minister Geir Haarde.

Tape Reveals Geir Haarde Appointed Ambassador as Political Favour

The already infamous recorded conversation between former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, former foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, and four other Centre and People’s Party MPs has drawn considerable criticism across the political spectrum for the demeaning way in which the politicians spoke about their female colleagues. Stundin reports, however, that in the same conversation, Gunnar Bragi also spoke at length about the how he’d appointed former Prime Minister Geir Haarde to an ambassadorial position as a political favour that he expected to be rewarded for by current finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson.

Geir Haarde, a member of the Independence Party alongside Bjarni Benediktsson, was prime minister from 2006-2009 and left office amidst accusations of wrongdoing that led to Iceland’s financial collapse. Geir was later even tried by Iceland’s High Court on four charges of violating the constitution and was convicted of one, namely not having held cabinet meetings on important matters in the lead-up to the economic collapse.

In 2014, a few years after his trial and conviction, Geir was appointed as Iceland’s ambassador to the United States. At the same time, Left-Green MP Árni Þór Sigurðsson was appointed as Iceland’s ambassador to Finland. And according to what he says himself in the recorded conversation, Gunnar Bragi specifically appointed Árni Þór as ambassador as a way of distracting from the fact that he was also appointing Geir at the same time.

“I talked about it with the whole party,” he says in the recording. “I saw that I couldn’t appoint Geir ambassador alone, I couldn’t show favor to Geir alone; that would be too much for the parliament and everyone to swallow. So what I did was to make Árni Þór ambassador, which didn’t cost anything in reality – you must have noticed that he’s an idiot, thought he might be my cousin – and then what happens?”

“The core Left-Greens went crazy,” he continues, “but Katrín [Jakobsdóttir; then the chairperson of the Left-Greens] didn’t say a word.”

Gunnar Bragi continues that Geir thanked him afterwards, saying, “It made me crazy when you were making Árni Þór ambassador, but then all at once, I realized that the attention was all going to Árni and I was very happy.” He also credits the former Prime Minister with saying, “Thank you for that. No one criticized me.”

Gunnar Bragi, a member of the Progressive Party, apparently had personal motives for the appointment – pecifically, he’s had hopes of obtaining a position in the diplomatic service.  Sigmundur Davíð, acting as a go-between for Gunnar Bragi and Bjarni Benediktsson at the time of Geir’s ambassadorial appointment, passed these hopes along to Bjarni. Per the recording, Bjarni responded that if Gunnar named Geir Haarde as ambassador, he would “…be in with the Independence MPs.”

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