After digesting the Panamapapers and the interview (watch it here) with prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson parliamentary groups are meeting today. At 3pm GMT Alþingi convenes for direct questions to ministers instead of other topics, previously planned for today. The opposition is expected to ask for a vote of confidence in the prime minister.
Gunnlaugsson has, as earlier, refused to speak to Rúv, the state broadcaster, but said, on entering the Alþingi this morning, that he would speak to them later. However, on private channel Stöð 2 he said he has not at all considered resigning.
That might however be something his own party asks him to consider. Gunnlaugsson is now at a meeting with the parliamentary group. Some MPs from the Progressive party, Gunnlaugsson’s party, said to Rúv, as they entered the meeting that things will now be discussed. Given the fact that Gunnlaugsson has so far enjoyed unanimous support in his parliamentary group, at least outwardly, the support sounded somewhat more subdued than earlier.
The onus is really on the Independence party, the Progressives’ coalition party – are they willing to support Gunnlaugsson? So far, no clear answers.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, leader of the Pirate party, which has unprecedented support in opinion polls, said she was greatly saddened to see where things are at now following the interview. She has called for Gunnlaugsson to resign, said it was the only decent thing for him to do and he should do it before the Alþingi meeting today.
MPs have at times complained of Gunnlaugsson’s unwillingness to face questions in Alþingi; the question is if he will be there at 3pm. Also, if he will still be a prime minister.
There is little tradition in Iceland for ministers resigning following scandals but a great tradition for hanging tenaciously onto power. It is difficult to see how the prime minister can brush this scandal off but at the same time it takes external action to push him out: it’s not easy to gauge who among the coalition MPs will dare to step out of line and vote for no confidence.
Theoretically, the Independence party could try to find allies for a new coalition. However, the opposition parties have all been asking for a new election and nothing less which makes it unlikely they would be tempted to form a government without elections. Perhaps things will be more clear by the end of the day but considering how things tend to drag on in Icelandic politics it would show a new and unexpected political energy if some decisive answers had been found by the end of the day.
Update: Alþingi is convening right now. Seems the vote of confidence will take place on Wednesday. If this turns out to be the case the coalition partners have 48 hours to decide if to act or not. The vote is not only on prime minister Gunnlaugsson but on the whole government. – The youth association of the Independence party has already announced it does not support Gunnlaugsson premiership. This is in no way meaningful but it shows that the party as a whole would no longer be united in its support for Gunnlaugsson.
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