Vote of No Confidence Felled

bjarni benediktsson

The People’s Party and Pirate Party motion of no confidence against Iceland’s coalition government was felled with 35 votes to 25. The motion was introduced in response to Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s resignation as Prime Minister and her replacement by Independence Party Chairman Bjarni Benediktsson. The bill’s supporters were calling for the dissolution of Parliament by June and an election in September.

Unsurprising outcome

People’s Party MP and Chairperson Inga Sæland, who introduced the bill, told RÚV that the result of the vote did not surprise her. “Of course not. They have 38 MPs, with a very good and strong majority as we know.”

Hildur Sverrisdóttir, Chair of the Independence Party’s parliamentary group, also stated that the vote’s outcome was as expected, adding that “[i]t’s good this is over with and we can continue our work.”

Ministries play musical chairs

Prime Minister of Iceland since 2017, Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced earlier this month that she was resigning from the post to run in Iceland’s Presidential election on June 1. As a result, the governing Left-Green Movement, Independence Party, and Progressive Party reassigned ministry appointments, making Bjarni Benediktsson Prime Minister.

Bjarni resigned as Finance Minister just last October following a ruling that he had mishandled the sale of state-owned bank Íslandsbanki. Less than a week later, it was announced that Bjarni would be appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, swapping roles with Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, who took over as Minister of Finance.

Broad disapproval of Bjarni as PM

Nearly four out of every five people (78%) surveyed said they disapproved of Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of the Independence Party, ascending to the office of prime minister. According to a new poll by Prósent, only 13% said they approved of Bjarni, Heimildin reports. Almost 42,000 people in Iceland, equivalent to around 15% of voters in the country, have signed a petition titled “Bjarni Benediktsson does not have my support as Prime Minister.”

Read more about Bjarni Benediktsson.

Pirates and People’s Party Challenge Coalition Government

Cabinet of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson

Inga Sæland, leader of the People’s Party, has submitted a motion of no confidence directed at the coalition government of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson. The motion is co-signed by MPs from the Pirate Party.

The entire cabinet is the object of the motion, which also includes a clause calling for new elections for Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, this September.

Ministers not held accountable

“In our view, ministers have not been held accountable when they swap cabinet positions instead of resigning and admitting their violations in office,” Inga told Vísir. She added that Bjarni, who became prime minister last week after Katrín Jakobsdóttir resigned to run for the office of president, had left the ministry of finance last fall after failing to confirm to guidelines during the privatisation of Íslandsbanki bank.

“We also think it’s in bad taste that Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who as minister of food, agriculture and fisheries violated law and maybe even the constitution itself, has been promoted as well and is now minister of the interior,” Inga said.

Little hope of success

Inga said that she expects most, if not all, MPs from opposition parties to support the motion and hopes that it will be scheduled for debate as soon as tomorrow. She admitted, however, that the chances of the motion carrying were low.

“They have 38 MPs and they’re not going to vote themselves out of power,” she said of the coalition MPs from the Independence Party, Progressive Party and Left-Green Movement. Members of parliament in Alþingi are 63 in total.

She said that the motion was a symbolic gesture first and foremost. “Behind it stand some 40 to 50 thousand voters who have signed a petition to protest Bjarni Benediktsson becoming the head of the entire executive branch in the country,” Inga said, referring to an online petition started following the cabinet reshuffling.

78% Disapprove of New Prime Minister

Bjarni Benediktsson, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson

Nearly four of every five people surveyed said they disapproved of Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of the Independence Party, ascending to the office of the prime minister. According to a new poll by Prósent, only 13% said they approved of Bjarni, Heimildin reports.

Coalition reshuffling

Bjarni became prime minister a week ago following a cabinet reshuffling. Katrín Jakobsdóttir had resigned as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement a week earlier to campaign for the office of president. Bjarni was prime minister briefly in 2017, but had otherwise been finance minister from 2013 to 2023. The Progressive Party rounds out the three-party coalition with elections set for next year when the term ends.

Online petition

78% of those surveyed by Prósent said they disapproved of Bjarni, with young people more likely to disapprove than older people. Women were also more likely to disapprove than men. In addition, 73% of those surveyed said they disapproved of the coalition government reshuffling. 14% said they approved.

An online petition was started after Bjarni’s return as prime minister, which has now been signed by 41,240 people expressing their disapproval of him. The number of signatures amounts to approximately 15% of all voters in Iceland.

Coalition’s Strength to Be Tested by Vote of No Confidence

Inga Sæland, leader of the People's Party

Inga Sæland, leader of the People’s Party, will submit a motion of no confidence directed at the coalition government next week. The cabinet of the Independence Party, the Progressive Party, and the Left-Green Movement was reshuffled last week following Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s announcement that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to run for president.

“We’re planning a motion of no confidence against the government as a whole,” Inga told Mbl.is. “There are three ministers in this cabinet who are particularly skilled at evading the law in this country.”

Motion against Svandís on hold

Inga has discussed the matter with the other opposition parties in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament. Following meetings of the parliamentary groups on Monday afternoon it should become clearer whether Inga’s motion will have broader support.

Inga had pledged to submit such a motion against Svandís Svavarsdóttir before a reshuffling of the cabinet last week that saw Svandís move from the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries to the ministry of infrastructure. The Parliamentary Ombudsman had found that Svandís had not acted in accordance with law when she temporarily stopped the whaling season last summer. Inga said it was unclear if she could refile the motion with Svandís now at a different ministry.

Bjarni under fire

The other two ministers Inga mentioned are Bjarni Benediktsson, the new prime minister and leader of the Independence Party, and Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, minister of social affairs and labour and interim leader of the Left-Green Movement. The Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded last year that Bjarni had not confirmed to guidelines as minister of finance during the privatisation process of Íslandsbanki bank. Nearly 40,000 people have signed an online petition expressing their lack of support for Bjarni’s leadership of the coalition government.

In Inga’s opinion, Guðmundur Ingi has broken his promise of establishing an office of an ombudsman for the elderly. “No opposition MP I’ve talked to has confidence in this coalition government,” Inga added.

Presidential Candidates Katrín and Baldur Neck and Neck

Bessastaðir, official residence of the President of Iceland.

The field of candidates for the office of president of Iceland is becoming clearer, with elections set for June 1. The frontrunners are neck and neck, according to pollster Gallup, with former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir polling at 30% and Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, at 26%.

Vísir reports that this survey shows that Katrín and Baldur are statistically equal. Comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr is in third place with 18%, the only other candidate in double digits.

Political turmoil after Katrín’s announcement

The race was shaken up by Katrín’s announcement that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to run for president, a mostly ceremonial position that comes with limited political powers. Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson took over as prime minister as other cabinet positions were reshuffled. Katrín remains a popular politician, even though her coalition government has lost public support during this term.

Other candidates are polling at lower numbers. Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, polls at 7%, with lawyer Arnar Þór Jónsson and Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director general of Iceland’s National Energy Authority both at 4%.

Age and gender divide

According to Gallup, older people are more likely to vote for Katrín, while Jón gets most of his support from younger people. Women are also more likely to support Baldur, Halla Tómasdóttir and Katrín, with men more likely to support Jón.

The deadline to confirm candidacy is in two weeks and the election takes place on June 1. The current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, announced on January 1 that he would not run again after serving two terms.

Online Petition Against New PM Sparks Public Debate

bjarni benediktsson finance minister

Approximately 37,000 people have signed a petition indicating their lack of support for Iceland’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson. This petition, which ranks as the eighteenth most signed in the nation’s history according to RÚV, appears to have sparked significant public debate.

Eighteenth most signed petition in Iceland’s history

Over 37,000 people have signed a petition to the effect that Bjarni Benediktsson does not enjoy their support as Prime Minister, a position he recently assumed. As noted in the latest episode of the Iceland New Review podcast, published today, the petition is not a legally binding referendum but an exercise in democratic participation. The growth of signatures has slowed but saw a significant increase yesterday following media coverage.

In a response to the petition on Wednesday, Bjarni Benediktsson observed that Icelanders were free to protest and sign petitions: “It must be considered a part of the normal functioning of democracy in Iceland that not everyone holds the same opinion. Even if a few thousand people sign a petition, or even ten times more vote for another party, that’s just how it is,” Bjarni remarked. He also pointed out that the Independence Party had received the most votes in the last election and that he had entered parliament with the highest number of votes of any MP.

RÚV maintains that this petition ranks eighteenth in terms of the most signed in Iceland’s history. The record is held by a 2016 petition demanding 11% of GDP for healthcare, signed by 87,000 Icelanders. Subsequent notable petitions include a 2008 protest against the UK’s use of anti-terrorism laws against Iceland and a 2013 campaign against relocating Reykjavik Airport, garnering 83,353 and 69,637 signatures respectively.

The petition against the Prime Minister will remain active until April 23.

Critical of the petition

Former Minister Björn Bjarnason – a relation to Bjarni Benediktsson – recently criticised the fact that the website Island.is had been transformed into an official messaging channel for anonymous individuals who “seek to undermine constitutional elections and democratic rules.”

“Media outlets blindly compete to report how diligent people are in signing the petition. If one visits the website, a large number of those signing the petition, which is reported on by the media, appear to be anonymous, as if it were a secret ballot,” Björn recently wrote on his blog.

Brynjar Níelsson, deputy MP from the Independence Party, agreed with Björn, characterising the petition as digital harassment. “There’s a government. There are elections. What’s wrong with people? Why are they doing this? This is as sensible as a petition to make me a spokesperson or host at Eurovision,” Brynjar stated during an interview with the radio programme Bítið yesterday morning.

The rapper Emmsjé Gauti, who was also a guest on Bítið, reacted to Brynjar’s comments by stating that it was only natural for people to express their dissatisfaction in this manner, observing that the petition did not demand Bjarni’s resignation. Gauti caveated his statement by noting that people should, nonetheless, communicate respectfully.

A secure online platform for petitions

As noted on Island.is, individuals can create petitions on the website to which the public can add their names using digital authentication.

“The purpose of these petitions is to provide a secure online platform where people can support causes. Creating a petition involves collecting names and signatures to demonstrate support for specific goals or issues. These petitions must adhere to national laws and the Icelandic constitution, and the content must be presented respectfully and decently, avoiding any defamatory statements,” the website notes.

First cabinet meeting this morning

Bjarni Benediktsson’s new government convened for its first cabinet meeting this morning. The government was introduced on Tuesday, and the official handover of keys took place on Wednesday morning.

Bjarni Sets Government Priorities in First Parliamentary Address

Bjarni Benediktsson icelandic politics

In his first parliamentary address after assuming the office of Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson highlighted the government’s focus on energy development, economic stability through continued inflation reduction, and a sustainable approach to immigration. Bjarni also emphasised the importance of democratic debate, the nation’s enviable living conditions, and the collaborative spirit of its diverse political landscape.

Economic challenges persist

In his first address before parliament after having assumed the office of Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson reviewed some of the main issues that the coalition government intends to focus on for the remainder of the term, Mbl.is reports.

Among the issues discussed by Bjarni was a focus on energy development with a simplified power plant establishment process. “We cannot allow power plant options, which have been classified in the utilisation category in parliament’s framework, to be delayed by bureaucracy to such an extent that no progress is made.”

Despite the decline in inflation, Bjarni acknowledged the challenges, such as high family repayments, continue to persist. “Continued reduction of inflation and thus economic stability for households and the business sector will be our guiding light in all our work,” Bjarni observed.

Properly welcoming those who seek refuge

Addressing immigration, Bjarni stressed the importance of secure borders for sovereignty and the need for a sustainable approach to welcome those eligible for refuge. “Managing the number of people who come here is a precondition for us to properly welcome those who have the right to seek refuge here … specific Icelandic rules should not increase pressure on the borders in such a way that infrastructure fails.”

Bjarni further noted that the legislative proposals of Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, Minister of Justice, for changes to immigration and police laws, would be finalised at this session.

Bjarni also mentioned ongoing efforts to improve disability benefits and aquaculture, expressing the honour he felt in leading the government and seeking cooperative governance across parties.

“One of the freest democracies in the world”

He then reflected on the essence of democratic debate and compromise, celebrating Iceland’s strong economy, political stability, and rich natural resources as foundations of its enviable global position.

“One doesn’t need to look far beyond our borders to find countries where no compromises, no democratic debate takes place, where only one person decides. I believe few people would want such a reality, and we should all be grateful to live in one of the freest democratic societies in the world, even though the eight political parties that form the parliament here do not always agree on every issue.”

He concluded on a sanguine note: “Our situation as Icelanders is enviable in many ways in the international arena. Despite facing difficult weather and natural challenges … there’s hardly a nation that enjoys better living conditions than we Icelanders. Let’s remember this when we disagree on the way forward.”

 

Voice Distrust in New Prime Minister Through Online Petition

bjarni benediktsson

Over 14,000 people have signed a petition to the effect that Bjarni Benediktsson does not enjoy their support as Prime Minister. Bjarni has countered by stating that the Independence Party received the most votes in the last parliamentary elections.

Signatures added every minute

Bjarni Benediktsson, Chair of the Independence Party, assumed the role of Prime Minister of Iceland yesterday after Katrín Jakobsdóttir resigned from the position to run for president.

Shortly after it was announced that Bjarni would assume leadership, a petition quickly emerged among those who lack trust in Bjarni’s capacity as Prime Minister. The petition has been circulating for just under a day, with dozens of signatures being added every minute, Vísir reports.

“Bjarni Benediktsson enjoys little trust among the public. Just four months ago, a poll found that ‘three out of every four have little trust in the foreign minister according to a new survey.’ Bjarni Benediktsson does not have our support as Prime Minister,” the petition reads.

People have the right to disagree

In an interview with Vísir, Bjarni reacted to the petition by stating that people are free to have their opinions, as Iceland is one of the freest and most prosperous countries in the world.

“People have the right to protest and sign petitions. It must be seen as part of the normal functioning of democracy in Iceland that not everyone holds the same opinion. Even if a few thousand people sign a list, or even ten times more vote for another party, that’s just how it is,” Bjarni remarked. He pointed out that the Independence Party had received the most votes in the last election and that he entered parliament with the highest number of votes of any MP.

“Of course, I’m listening, and I’m keeping an eye on what’s happening in society. But if one spends all their energy chasing down the last voice of disagreement, then that’s all that one is doing,” Bjarni remarked, adding that he intended to use his energy to follow his heart and to do what he had promised to the voters of his party.

Bjarni Returns as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson

Bjarni Benediktsson, current minister of foreign affairs and leader of the centre-right Independence Party, will become prime minister in the reshuffled coalition government following the departure of Katrín Jakobsdóttir from the office, RÚV reports.

Katrín announced last week that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to campaign for the office of president, with presidential elections scheduled for June 1. This threw the future of her party’s coalition with the Independence Party and the centrist Progressive Party into uncertainty. A parliamentary election is scheduled for September next year, but the opposition has called for a snap election in light of these developments.

Bjarni’s return following privatisation scandal

At a press conference in Harpa concert and conference hall today, Bjarni announced that he would become prime minister. Bjarni was previously prime minister during a short-lived coalition in 2017 and finance minister for most of the period from 2013 to 2023. He resigned as finance minister in October of last year after the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that his role in the privatisation process of Íslandsbanki bank, which had been nationalised after the 2008 banking collapse, had not confirmed to guidelines.

He became minister for foreign affairs instead, with fellow party member Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir becoming finance minister in his stead. Þórdís will now move back to the ministry for foreign affairs, where she served previously.

Embattled Svandís switches ministries

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, leader of the Progressive Party, will now become finance minister. Embattled Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who was set to face a motion of no confidence in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, this week, will become minister of infrastructure. In January, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that she had not acted in accordance with law when she temporarily banned whale hunting last summer.

Her fellow Left-Green Movement MP, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, will take her place in the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries.

The changes will be formalised at a meeting of the cabinet with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson at 7 PM tonight.

72 Palestinian Visa Holders En Route

bjarni benediktsson

Late last night, 72  Palestinian people crossed the border from Gaza to Egypt on request from Icelandic authorities. All of them have Icelandic visas on the basis of family reunification and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has announced that they will travel to Iceland, Heimildin reports.

Criticism over inaction

The Icelandic government has faced criticism due to the delay in extracting these individuals from Gaza, which has seen military action from the Israeli army for months. Icelandic volunteers have already been able to bring a number of people across the border to safety without help from the authorities.

Last weekend, Israeli authorities approved the list of names submitted by Icelandic authorities, according to a press release from the ministry. Minister for Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson communicated with his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz last Tuesday on this subject.

A policy exception

“This case has relied on the process speed and position of local authorities and the Icelandic delegation can only operated on the grounds of the legal, diplomatic processes that Israeli and Egyptian authorities have put in place for these cases,” the press release read.

Authorities maintain that they had no duty to step in to support the visa holders, even if they did so in this case. Bjarni added that the government is pushing to reform immigration policy to ensure that exceptions like these don’t put “additional pressure on Icelandic systems”.