New Ministerial Role for Bjarni a Possibility, According to PM Skip to content
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New Ministerial Role for Bjarni a Possibility, According to PM

Yesterday, Bjarni Benediktsson announced his resignation from his ministerial post following a formal opinion by the Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding the sale of Íslandsbanki. In an interview with Vísir yesterday, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that she supported his decision, emphasised the coalition government’s stability, and dismissed rumours of early elections.

Decision was entirely Bjarni’s

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that Bjarni Benediktsson’s decision to resign from his ministerial post had been commendable and appropriate, stressing that the decision had been entirely his.

Katrín affirmed the coalition’s stability and refuted suggestions of imminent elections. There is speculation that Benediktsson may take on a different ministerial role. “This is, of course, a significant decision that the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs has made, and he thoroughly discussed it at (yesterday morning’s) press conference,” Katrín Jakobsdóttir noted.

A snap press conference

During a press conference yesterday, Bjarni Benediktsson cited the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s critique on the Íslandsbanki sale as his reason for resigning. The Ombudsman highlighted a potential conflict of interest, noting Bjarni’s father was among the buyers when Bjarni approved the sale through the Icelandic State Financial Investments (ISFI). While Bjarni expressed disagreement with the Ombudsman’s view, he chose to respect it and subsequently announced his resignation.

“I find this decision to be very commendable. I believe that the Minister of Finance, at every stage of this matter, even though he has been criticised, has sought to take responsibility for this action. Perhaps one can say that this responsibility became final today, with this decision,” Katrín observed.

When asked if she felt it was right for Bjarni to resign in this situation, Katrín stated that the decision was entirely Bjarni’s to make. “But I have a deep understanding of this decision and respect it. We, of course, discussed this beforehand, and there were various aspects to consider. But I believe he did the right thing,” Katrín stated, adding that she neither demanded nor wished for Bjarni to step down.

Big tasks ahead

As noted by Vísir, the leaders of the governing parties discussed Bjarni’s resignation at a cabinet meeting yesterday. When asked about their discussions, Katrín replied that the three leaders had simply reviewed the situation. “Given the nature of the matter, it affects the collaboration of these parties when the leader of one party decides to step down from his position.” The government is now facing major tasks, especially in economic matters.

A significant political decision

Katrín told Vísir that she and Bjarni had not discussed his possible resignation in the event that the Ombudsman deemed that the latter had been unqualified to handle the sale: “The Minister of Finance briefed me on the Ombudsman’s stance beforehand. We deliberated on it collegially, examining various angles. Ultimately, the decision was his, and it holds substantial political implications.”

Katrín further emphasised the coalition government’s resilience, asserting that its leadership structure would remain intact despite Benediktsson’s departure. The upcoming days would be spent assessing the current economic landscape. A subsequent cabinet meeting would be held to formalise Bjarni’s resignation.

Responding to queries about a potential government breakdown following Benediktsson’s decision, Jakobsdóttir stated, “No. I’m confident we’re united in our commitment to address these pressing challenges.”

Bjarni to move ministries?

At yesterday’s press conference, Bjarni Benediktsson expressed uncertainty about his future role, whether as a minister, the leader of the Independence Party, or a parliament member. Addressing questions about Bjarni potentially heading another ministry, Katrín Jakobsdóttir emphasized the current focus on the Ministry of Finance.

“Our primary concern is to ensure the Minister of Finance can work effectively and be accountable for the Íslandsbanki sale. While the possibility of Bjarni leading another ministry exists, it hasn’t been a topic of discussion,” Jakobsdóttir clarified.

Vísir postulated that Benediktsson might transition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir potentially taking over Finance. Ólafur Þ. Harðarson, an emeritus professor at the University of Iceland, conveyed to RÚV that such speculations might have merit.

Ministry of Finance up for grabs

Vísir noted that Bjarni Benediktsson isn’t the sole minister under the Ombudsman’s scrutiny. The Ombudsman is currently investigating whether Svandís Svavarsdóttir breached administrative laws by introducing a whaling ban earlier this summer.

When questioned about potential repercussions if the Ombudsman identifies similar lapses in Svavarsdóttir’s actions, Katrín admitted to having heard speculations although no such thing had been discussed at the moment.

“I’ve heard speculations about this today. Of course, the Ombudsman often investigates many ministers and our official transfers. I believe it’s premature to comment on such matters in any related context. These issues can be inherently different, so we should just wait and see.”

Will the Left-Green Movement want the Ministry of Finance?

When asked if Katrín’s party, the Left-Green Movement, was interested in the Ministry of Finance, Katrín replied thusly: “We haven’t discussed the matter based on these premises. In our meeting today with the three [leaders of the governing parties], we primarily discussed the bigger picture, the tasks, and how we can ensure that we come out of this stronger than when we entered,” Katrín observed.

She doesn’t expect elections to be called earlier than scheduled. As noted by Vísir, based on a full electoral term, the next parliamentary elections are set for the fall of 2025. “Nothing has happened that warrants it, at least for now,” Katrín concluded by saying.

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