Iceland’s Prime Minister in Hiding, Says Yesterday’s Resignation “Temporary”; Rise of the “Pirates”

Iceland’s prime minister resigned yesterday following the “Panama Papers” investment scandal that implicated the heads of government of five countries.

by Mish

Government officials in another forty countries were named in the documents leaked on April 3.

Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, was one of the leaders named.

Yesterday he resigned. Today, whereabouts unknown, he says his resignation is temporary.

Even sharp subarctic spring sunshine could not pierce the fog of political uncertainty that shrouded Iceland’s political circles on Wednesday — or even clarify the whereabouts of its prime minister.
On Wednesday evening thousands of protesters braved the rain to mass outside the parliament, where they banged pots and pans and tossed eggs and at least one fish head. Placards they carried read: “This is not my government.”
The crisis looks set to fuel the rise of the radical “Pirate party” to unprecedented national influence. Polls suggest Iceland’s version of the international direct-democracy and free-speech movement is now the island’s most popular political group.
Mr Gunnlaugsson became the target of public fury after news that he once owned part of an offshore company, now controlled by his wife, that owned claims in three Icelandic banks that collapsed in 2008.
The prime minister announced on Tuesday he would resign, but in a later statement suggested he only wanted fisheries minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson to take his place temporarily at the head of government.
Asta Helgadottir, one of the Pirate party’s three members of parliament, riffed on Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought-experiment in which a cat could be alive and dead at the same time. “[Mr Gunnlaugsson] is our ‘Schrödinger’s prime
The Pirate party does not have conventional policy-setting procedures, but Ms Helgadottir, 26, said its MPs — who hang a large skull-and-cross bones in their parliamentary office — were demanding an immediate election to resolve the crisis.minister’,” she said.

World’s First Temporary Resignation

There you have it, the world’s first temporary resignation, about to become permanent.

Thousands of demonstrators have demanded the resignation of the current PM and government. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristján

A new opinion poll by Icelandic media outfits Fréttablaðið, Stöð 2 and Vísir gives Iceland’s Pirate Party a record 43% of the vote.
21.6% percent would vote for the Independence Party, 11.2% for the Left-Green Movement, 10.2% for the Social Democratic Alliance, 7.9% for the Progressive Party, and 3.8% for Bright Future.

Panama Leaks Background

The Panama Papers are a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca. The documents show how wealthy public officials hide their money.

  • Five Top Dogs: Argentina, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates
  • Forty others: Government officials, close relatives, and close associates of various heads of government of more than forty other countries include Brazil, China, Peru, France, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Syria, and the United Kingdom.

A full list of companies involved comes out in early May.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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