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Independence Party Leader to Form Government

Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson just announced at a press conference at the presidential residence that he has given Independence Party Leader Bjarni Benediktsson the mandate to form a new government. He plans to speak with Bjarni again this weekend or at the beginning of next week to find out how the formation of a government is coming along.

Guðni told reporters that giving Bjarni the mandate was the most viable option. He stated no clear lines had appeared during his first round of talks with party leaders.

Yesterday, he spoke again with the three party leaders who had been mentioned as possible candidates for forming a government, that is, the leaders of the Independence Party, the Left-Green Movement and the Reform Party, and made up his mind after that and after gathering additional information.

“The conclusion now is to give the leader of the Independence Party the mandate to form a government which enjoys majority in Alþingi [the Icelandic parliament],” he explained. “It’s clear that given the current situation, this is the most viable option to succeed.”

Guðni continued, “The mandate is not given out as a prize, and is, thus, not automatically handed out.” He noted he believed it was more viable to give Bjarni the mandate than Reform Party Chairman Benedikt Jóhannesson. In addition, fairness had to be considered, since the party of the former had received 21 MPs, the latter seven; the former leads the country’s largest party, the latter the fifth largest.

“I’m not saying the outcome is clear,” he admitted, “but this is the likeliest, given the situation.” He added, “I have at least received the message that people are ready for negotiations.” He noted that by giving a party leader the mandate to form a government, he was not appointing a prime minister, but helping leaders in Alþingi form a government.

Guðni mentioned he had not set any deadline for the formation of a government, but the timing of the election meant that there was pressure to make progress.

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