Iceland Votes: Government formed

icelandelection

This week, after months of negotiation, a government was finally formed in Iceland. The new three-party coalition is promising big changes and reform of the justice system.

Here’s a look at the shape of the new government and what it might have in store.

THE NEW GOVERNMENT

After numerous attempts at coalition-building failed, the Independence Party (the largest party after the elections in October) successfully negotiated again with the new Reform Party and Bright Future. However, their coalition deal could be unstable in future, with a majority of just one. This will require complete compliance, even on controversial and contentious issues.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Pirate Party has promised to hold a vote of no confidence in the new administration at the first possible opportunity.

THE CABINET

Despite the new coalition arrangement, Bjarni Benediktsson (leader of Independence) remains Prime Minister of Iceland. However, there has been criticism of this, as Bjarni (like his predecessor) was also implicated in last year’s Panama Papers.

The rest of the Icelandic cabinet is below:

  • Minister of Finance: Benedikt Jóhannesson (leader of the Reform Party)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson (Independence MP)
  • Minister of Education: Kristján Þór Júlíusson (Independence MP)
  • Minister of Health: Óttarr Proppé (leader of Bright Future)
  • Minister of Justice: Sigríður Á. Andersen (Independence MP)
  • Minister of Agriculture and Fishing: Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir (Reform MP)
  • Minister for the Environment: Björt Ólafsdóttir (Bright Future MP)
  • Minister of Industry and Tourism: Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir (Independence MP)
  • Minister of Social Affairs: Þorsteinn Víglundsson (Reform MP)
  • Minister of Transport and Communication: Jón Gunnarsson (Independence MP)

PROPOSED CHANGES

One of the big important changes to Icelandic policy is the plan to hold a parliamentary vote on continuing accession talks with the European Union. As it currently stands, this motion would likely pass. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is personally against moves for Iceland to join the 28-state group. Contrary to reports in the media, a referendum on EU membership is currently on the cards by the new administration.

On law and order, the new Minister of Justice has expressed a desire to introduce an appeals court to the Icelandic justice system. As the current system is only made up of district courts and a Supreme Court, this change will likely lift an immense workload off the Supreme Court.

The Minister for the Environment has also proposed a significant change, telling reporters ‘the government will no longer make concessions to large companies with tax money to pollute this country’.

OPPOSITION

With such a slim majority in the Althing, the opposition parties have considerable power and, so far, their view of the new government has been pessimistic. Alongside the Pirates’ plans to hold a vote of no confidence, the Progressive Party has raised concerns that those living outside of Reykjavik will be ignored by the administration, and the Social Democrats and Left-Greens have described the joint platform of the coalition as ‘vague and generally worded’.

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