For the first time in Iceland’s history, women are in the majority in the cabinet and a woman, Oddný Harðardóttir, now serves the position of Finance Minister for the first time.
The government offices of Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
After the latest reshuffling of Iceland’s cabinet, new ministers formally took office at the presidential residence Bessastaðir on December 31.
In her address to the nation on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said there is reason to celebrate these latest developments in equality in Iceland.
When approached by reporters on Saturday, Oddný said she is only keeping the seat warm for Katrín Júlíusdóttir, the current minister of industry, who will go on maternity leave next month.
However, Katrín stated it is not at all certain that she will take over as minister of finance upon her return to the cabinet.
It has been announced, though, that her ministry will be merged with the ministries of agriculture, fisheries and economic affairs, over which Oddný’s predecessor in the Ministry of Finance, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, will preside.
Thus Katrín’s position as minister of industry will become obsolete once she goes on maternity leave; former Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Jón Bjarnason and former Minister of Economic Affairs Árni Páll Árnason have already left the cabinet.
According to ruv.is, these latest changes to the cabinet are disputed, both within the coalition parties and among the opposition.
Jón said he is certain that he was made to step down due to his opposition to the European Union membership talks and wouldn’t give a straight answer as to whether he would continue to support the government.
Árni Páll stated he was discontent with the changes yet he encouraged his fellow members of the Social Democrats to support them for the sake of unity within the party.
“I wasn’t content with these proposals, not because of my own position—one cannot have opinions on the reshuffling of ministers—but because I find it unwise to upset the arrangement of the country’s fiscal control,” he said, adding, “It is a matter of responsibility to increase uncertainty and instability, and dissolution.”
PM Jóhanna on the other hand, said she is certain these changes will strengthen the government.
“We are making changes to ministries in consistency with the government agreement, as everyone knows. We are entering the final stage of this coalition’s collaboration where there are many tasks ahead; we announced in September 2010 that the number of ministers would decrease once these changes would be carried through,” she elaborated.
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