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.

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.

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.

Icelandic Doctors and Nurses Sign Ceasefire Petitions

Nurses Hospital Landsspítalinn við Hringbraut

Over 400 Icelandic doctors have signed a petition calling on the Icelandic government to denounce Israel for its attacks on Gaza and demand an immediate ceasefire, mbl.is reports. A separate letter from Icelandic nurses with the same demands has 254 signatures, RÚV reports. The letter outlines the deaths and destruction of infrastructure caused by Israel’s attacks in Gaza and call the situation a humanitarian crisis.

“In the past few weeks, Israel has carried out extensive attacks on Gaza in revenge for a terrorist attack which was carried out in Israel. Israel’s attacks have killed at least 10,569 Palestinians, including at least 4,324 children. The attacks have also caused tremendous destruction of Palestine’s infrastructure, which is at the point of collapse. Israel has cut off all water, electricity, and food supplies to residents of Gaza and is significantly restricting all aid from Egypt. A serious humanitarian crisis is happening that must be responded to as quickly as possible,” the opening of the letter from Icelandic doctors reads.

Demand Icelandic government puts pressure on Israel

The letter outlines the impact of the attacks on healthcare services in Gaza, including the killing of healthcare staff, destruction of hospitals, clinics, and ambulances. “The healthcare system in Gaza collapsed a long time ago,” it reads, in part. “Hospitals in Gaza cannot fulfill their role.”

“We the undersigned send this letter with the sincere wish and demand that the Icelandic government responds to the serious events that are now happening and demands a ceasefire,” the letter continues. “The government should put pressure on Israel to stop the continuing attacks on innocent residents of Gaza and on healthcare services in the area and condemn [Israel’s] actions.”

Locals in Iceland have held regular protests calling on the government to denounce Israel’s attacks and pressure for a ceasefire. A protest in support of a ceasefire will be held outside the US Embassy in Reykjavík today at 5:00 PM.

PM Jakobsdóttir Receives 2,000 Signatures on Israeli Actions

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received 2,000 signatures urging Icelandic authorities to condemn Israeli military actions in Palestine, RÚV reports. While she emphasised the importance of humanitarian laws and humanitarian aid for Palestine, she did not directly commit to the protesters’ demands.

2,000 signatures handed over

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received approximately 2,000 signatures demanding that Icelandic authorities condemn the actions of the Israeli military in Palestine, RÚV reports. Around 100 people gathered this morning outside the Prime Minister’s residence on Tjarnargata to protest the conflict in Palestine. The government held a meeting there this morning.

Katrín stepped out of the meeting to speak with the protesters, where Sema Erla Serdar, an activist and Chair of the Solaris association, presented her with the signatures collected over two days. Katrín then returned to the meeting, which concluded shortly before 10 AM.

“Not enough has been done”

“It has not been enough; Icelandic authorities have not condemned the war crimes and mass murders by Israeli officials, and we demand that they do. And we will continue to show up here if necessary,” Sema Erla told RÚV after Katrín had returned inside the residence.

When asked whether the PM had made any promises, Sema responded thusly: “She promised to address the issue in the meeting and to continue advocating on this matter. We will see what that means.”

As noted by RÚV, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir did not directly answer whether Icelandic authorities would yield to the demands of the protesters when approached by the media after the meeting. Instead, she emphasised the importance of respecting humanitarian laws.

“We have, of course, recognized Palestine as an independent state,” Katrín remarked. “We have always advocated for a two-state solution. We have supported the recent demand for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the region and have allocated additional funds for humanitarian assistance in Gaza. We always emphasise the importance of international laws being respected – including humanitarian laws.”

Björk to Participate in Anti-Whaling Protest This Saturday

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Icelandic musician Björk will participate in an anti-whaling protest in Reykjavík on Saturday, June 3. The organisers of the event are urging the Icelandic government to put a stop to whaling immediately.

Speeches, music, and a workshop

As noted in a press release sent to Icelandic media this morning, musician Björk is set to participate in an artistic event against whaling to be held at the Hjartatorg Square in downtown Reykjavík (below Laugavegur, between Smiðjustígur and Klapparstígur) on Saturday, June 3.

Icelandic musicians Högni and JFDR will take the stage, and speeches will be delivered by actress Hera Hilmars, Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, alongside representatives from Ungir umhverfissinnar (the Icelandic Youth Environmental Association) and the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network. The two associations will also announce a pending lawsuit against the Icelandic government if the authorities do not revoke the whaling licence immediately.

During the event, organisers will circulate two petitions, an Icelandic and an international one, which will be submitted to the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and the Prime Minister next week. As noted in the press release, over 100,000 signatures have already been collected on change.org over the past month. Nearly 18,000 individuals have signed the Icelandic petition.

A solidarity march from the old harbour

The event will begin at 2 PM at the Old Harbor in Reykjavík where attendees will gather around Fífill, a boat owned by the Elding whale watching company, and proceed towards Hjartatorg square, “in the spirit of the journeys that finback whales embark on every year, from the Azores past Iceland to Svalbard.”

Following the procession, the event itself will take place between 3 and 7 PM and will be emceed by actress and comedienne Saga Garðarsdóttir. The organisers will also host an art workshop for children, who will be afforded the opportunity to paint and make their own flags. The musical performances and speeches will be punctuated by DJ sets from Guðmundur Arnalds, Juanma b2b, and Björk. “Join us for a day of music, solidarity, and artistic expression as we gather for a cause close to our hearts,” the Facebook event reads.

As noted on IR in early May, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that it was not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare. “Iceland’s only active whaling company, Hvalur hf., says it is developing two methods to make hunting more efficient, one that uses artificial intelligence and another that uses an electric current,” the article notes.

Ministers Receive 45,000 Signature Petition Reopen Asylum Seeker Case

Uhunoma Osayomore

Friends of Uhunoma Osayomore, a 21-year-old man from Nigeria, delivered a petition signed by over 45,000 to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir yesterday, asking them to grant international asylum or a humanitarian visa in Iceland. According to a RÚV report, His lawyer states that when his application was denied, neither the Directorate of Immigration nor The Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board took into consideration the fact that Uhunoma was the victim of human trafficking. 

Áslaug Arna accepted the signatures and stated that while ministers don’t interfere in individual cases, they’re always looking for ways to improve the system. She added that Iceland accepted more refugees than the countries around us. Friends of Uhunoma delivered the signatures to the ministers, stating that he hoped they would be well received and that the case might be reopened. When the signatures were delivered, Katrín stated: “These are many signatures and we’ll look into it.”

Uhunoma’s lawyer has stated that the Directorate of Immigration and the appellatory committee had overlooked the fact that he was the victim of human trafficking, both in his home country and on his way to Iceland. They had previously ruled that Uhunoma could not prove that he would be persecuted if he returned to Nigeria.

Uhunoma’s story is a tragic one. The petition states that he was 16 when he left his home in Nigeria after his mother was murdered by his father and his younger sister died in an accident. Things went from bad to worse when he was caught by a human trafficker in Lagos, where he witnessed murders, was kept captive in a barn and suffered repeated sexual violence. For three years, he lived in refugee housing in Italy.

After a year in Iceland, Uhunoma has gained a new life and a loving family and friends. He has a home with an Icelandic family of 6. In the petition, Uhunoma’s friends state that “A temporary work permit was applied for Uhunoma, which was rejected, although he has a job waiting as soon as a permit is obtained for him to work in this country. Uhunoma needs no assistance from the Icelandic state and has only one wish: to live a life devoid of fear as a legal citizen of Iceland with his Icelandic family and friends.”

The petition for Uhunoma’s plight was started less than two weeks ago and has reached more than 46,000 signatures at the time of writing. His friends stated that bringing his case to the media wasn’t an ideal situation but the last resort. In the recent past, such cases have periodically gained media attention and public support. While Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has repeatedly stated that ministers can’t interfere with individual cases, high-profile cases have sometimes resulted in institutions reconsidering earlier decisions. 

Authorities Remove Graffiti Supporting New Constitution

A message painted on a wall in downtown Reykjavík last weekend asking “Where is the new constitution?” was removed only two days later, reportedly by government authorities. The removal may have had the opposite effect of that intended – as there has been an uptick in signatures on a petition urging Iceland’s government to adopt the crowdsourced constitution Icelanders voted on in 2012. The movement in support of this constitution appears to have been gaining steam lately.

Between 2010 and 2012, Iceland “crowdsourced” a new constitution which was handed over to Parliament. A national referendum followed, where a majority voted for the document to be used as a foundation for constitutional reform. Yet it was never adopted. Eight years later, a movement in support of that constitution is growing.

Sign painting company Reykjavík Sign Painters revamped a graffiti-covered wall on Skúlagata street in downtown Reykjavík last weekend by covering it with huge lettering reading: “Where is the new constitution?” The wall was on public property and the painters reportedly asked for permission before initiating the project. Just two days later, cleaners appeared in an unmarked van and pressure-washed the wall to remove the message.

Read More: Where is Iceland’s Updated Constitution?

Twitter users expressed outrage at the incident. “What is happening!!!!!! A wall that has been covered in graffiti for many years and is not privately owned is cleaned two days after “Where is the new constitution?” is written on it. Who ordered this and why?” asked Steiney Skúladóttir.

Stundin reports the removal was ordered by Umbra, a management company in the ownership of government ministry offices. The removal of the work appears to have caused a surge in support for the new constitution. A petition demanding Iceland’s government adopt the document has gone from 28,500 signatures to over 31,500 since the message was removed.

Supporters of the 2012 constitution insist it is a much-needed overhaul that better reflects the will of the people on key issues like human rights and use of natural resources. Its critics have claimed its lofty language may cause legal conundrums or its ideals are impossible to achieve. Iceland’s Parliament is currently working on its own revisions of the constitution in a cross-party committee with little direct involvement from the public.

Petition Calls to Halt Deportation of Seven-Year-Old Boy

Muhammed Zohair Faisal

A change.org petition is calling on the Icelandic government to halt the planned deportation of a Pakistani boy and his family. At the time of writing, 5,650 people have signed their support.

Muhammed Zohair Faisal, who celebrated his 7th birthday on Saturday, has lived in Iceland with his parents for two years. They are scheduled to be deported to Pakistan on Monday. Muhammed has never been to Pakistan; his parents have not been back to the country in ten years. “Nothing but uncertainty awaits them in Pakistan,” reads the petition. “…They have reason to fear what will happen to them in Pakistan and the child’s situation will be much worse there than here in Iceland.”

“Muhammed is a uniquely charming boy,” the petition continues, “he has a ready smile, is warm and cheerful. Muhammed has lived here for two years and has strong bonds with the community. He’s made many friends…speaks flawless Icelandic, is a great student…and has succeeded in melting the hearts of everyone who has met him.”

Sues Icelandic Government for Human Rights Violations

Nara Walker

Australian Nara Walker delivered a petition with over 43,000 signatures in her support to the Speaker of the Icelandic Parliament this afternoon, along with a letter urging MPs to do more to protect victims of domestic violence in Iceland. Nara was convicted by the Icelandic courts for violence against her ex-husband, who had been abusing her for years. She has now sued the Icelandic state before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for their handling of her case.

Faults in Icelandic justice system

The 43,000 signatures, printed in three thick volumes, were formally accepted by Guðjón Brjánsson, first substitute Speaker of Parliament, along with Nara’s letter. “I believe my case reflects severe faults in the Icelandic justice system in cases of violence against women and domestic abuse,” the letter reads. “I bring forward this petition and call on the lawmakers to set an example that domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and gender-based violence is unacceptable in Iceland.”

Lack of investigation

The case’s complaints to the ECHR touch on violations of Nara’s rights by the Icelandic state pertaining to Articles 3, 6, 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Among the main complaints in her case is that Nara did not enjoy legal protection as a victim of domestic violence. Because of a lack of investigation into the case’s background, her assertion of self-defence was dismissed. Nara’s case asserts that her rights were not properly introduced to her, and that she was presumed guilty rather than innocent until proven guilty. It also adds that she has been subjected to demeaning treatment by being denied medical help for her injuries.

By being treated as noted above, the case asserts that Nara was discriminated against by the Icelandic state. This discrimination is evident in the sentence she received as a foreign woman, which is heavier than in similar cases before the Icelandic courts. Iceland Review has previously reported on the obstacles foreign women face within the Icelandic justice system, specifically when it comes to divorce and custody proceedings.

Charged for assault by her abuser

Nara was convicted for assault for biting off a piece of her then-husband’s tongue. Icelandic courts considered this as an isolated incident, disregarding that Nara’s ex-husband had been abusing her for years. “This [history of abuse] was neither investigated nor taken into account in any way by the District Court,” Nara’s application to the ECHR states. It adds that the Icelandic court “examined this act in an isolated manner, as if it had happened in a vacuum and had not been a desperate response from a victim of recurrent abuse who was getting a tongue forced into her mouth by her abuser while he held her down and impeded her from leaving the premises.” The application goes on to state “The ex-husband had no other injuries whereas the Applicant’s injuries were consistent with being pushed, pulled, held, and beaten.”