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Slow Response to Vested Interests Regulations

A draft on regulations on vested interests among MPs in Iceland was issued from the General Committee of the Althingi parliament to all political parties 18 months ago, but only the Left-Greens have responded to it.

Representatives of other parties say the request that they reveal their assets and list larger gifts that they have accepted must have been forgotten in the hectic time leading up to the general elections in May 2007, Fréttabladid reports.

The regulations are based on a Danish model on regulations that make business and other vested interests among MPs more transparent, although there is no obligation to reveal assets.

Parties other than the Left-Greens have now received a second request from the General Committee that they reply and most MPs are positive towards the new regulations.

“It is necessary to have comprehensive regulations about these matters so that they are transparent,” said Lúdvík Bergvinsson, party group chairman for the Social Democrats.

Party group chairman for the Progressive Party, Siv Fridleifsdóttir, said her party welcomes the regulations on vested interests. “We will publish [lists of assets and larger gifts] immediately on our website. We are very open towards it.”

Thurídur Backman, the Left-Greens’ representative in the General Committee, said her party will do the same, adding that the Left-Greens have been calling for such regulations for a long time although they would prefer that everyone be obligated to reveal their assets. The Left-Greens would also like to see the regulations turned into law.

Party group chairman of the Liberal Party Kristinn H. Gunnarsson dismissed the regulations as “pure nonsense,” adding, “It has to be enacted with a bill so that it has legal backing. Otherwise it’s double-dealing.”

Arnbjörg Sveinsdóttir, party group chairman for the Independence Party, does not believe such regulations should be bound by law. “Elected representatives are first and foremost responsible towards their voters.”

Baldur Thórhallsson, professor at the University of Iceland, said regulations in which the subject can choose whether it wants to follow them or not are “half-baked measures,” adding, “Either you have regulations that everyone has to follow or you have no regulations at all. And then one could ask: What are people afraid of?”

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