Protests Outside Alþingi on Iceland’s Centenary
Iceland observed its centenary as an independent, sovereign nation on Saturday, December 1, an occasion that was marked not only by celebrations and cultural events all over the country, but also protests in front of Alþingi. RÚV reports that protesters gathered to demand that the six MPs embroiled in the “Klaustur Affair” be held accountable for the misogynistic comments and backroom dealings that came to light in a recently published series of recordings.
“This is one way to show your dissatisfaction,” protestor Þorgrímur Kári Snævarr told reporters. “The most direct one and, in reality, a great way to celebrate the centenary. When you think about it, you could say that [Icelandic] sovereignty has been built upon the words ‘Vér mótmælum allir,’ [‘We all protest’].” Another protester was very clear about what she wanted to come of the protests: “We don’t want these people, with these opinions, in the Icelandic parliament,” stated Sólrún Halldórsdóttir.
Late last week, several recordings were made public in which six MPs from the Centre and People’s Parties – including former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and former Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinnson – are heard to make misogynistic comments about female colleagues. Gunnar Bragi was also recorded talking about how he’d successfully managed to appoint former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, who was convicted of misconduct in office in the leadup to Iceland’s financial crisis, to a high-profile ambassadorial position by using distraction tactics. He stated that the appointment was a political favour to high-ranking Independence Party MPs, such as Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, and that he expected to be rewarded for the gesture with an ambassadorial position himself one day.
Since the recordings were made public, all of the individuals present during the conversation have issued apologies. People’s Party MPs Karl Gauti Hjaltason and Ólafur Ísleifsson were also expelled from their party – unsurprising, perhaps, as one of the female MPs insulted by name in the recorded conversation was People’s Party chair Inga Sæland. However, none of the MPs have made any move to resign.
As part of the centenary celebrations on Saturday, Alþingi was open to the public. And so, at the end of the protest, organizer Alexandra Kristjana Ægisdóttir took the opportunity to hand-deliver a list of demands to Alþingi speaker Steingrímur J. Sigfússon. “We’re delivering these to you on behalf of the people,” said Alexandra. “These are the people’s demands that have been expressed in discussions on Facebook and all throughout society. We demand that you take action on this because you are all elected individuals and you work for us.”
Steingrímur thanked Alexandra for delivering the list of demands and said they would be presented to the full parliament during a meeting on Monday. “I expect that you will hear more on Alþingi’s response on the matter at the beginning of the meeting on Monday.”