Iceland government appoints new PM, to call early elections

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 4:38 AM

It was unclear whether the naming of Fisheries Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson to head the government or the call for early elections would satisfy the thousands of Icelanders who in Str protests this week demanded the government resign immediately for early elections.

Iceland'south government named a new prime minister and called for early elections in the autumn on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson quit to become the first global politician brought down by the "Panama Papers" leaks.

It was unclear whether the naming of Fisheries Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson to head the government or the call for early elections would satisfy the thousands of Icelanders who in Str protests this week demanded the government resign immediately for early elections.

Gunnlaugsson quit as prime minister on Tuesday after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed his wife owned an offshore company that held millions of dollars in debt from failed Icelandic banks.

The government said the decision to keep elections in autumn would give it time to chase through on one of the biggest economic policy changes in decades - the ending of capital controls introduced to rescue the economy from the two thousand eight financial crisis.

Johannsson, who'd served also as agriculture minister in the government, told reporters the government would further pursue its large projects of the latest three years, the largest being the abolition of capital controls.

The opposition has been trying to force a new election with a vote of number confidence in the government, which could lead to a radical political shift.

A few thousand demonstrators, though fewer than on Monday, gathered for another evening of protests in front of the parliament building on Wednesday.

Protesters, already fed up with the financial and political elite after the two thousand eight banking crisis wrecked their economy, have gathered the latest three nights in the capital Reykjavik, some pelting parliament with yoghurt and eggs.

"I perceive love I'm watching a live indicate of House of Cards," Erla Gisladottir, a 32-year-old mother on parental leave, said ahead of the government'south decision to call new elections, referring to a television indicate about political intrigue.

Polls indicate the anti-establishment Pirate Party in the lead if a new election is called in the country of 330.000 people, a result with potentially wider impact across Europe where mainstream political parties are fending off populists.

A poll by Icelandic media outlet Visir showed forty-three % of those polled would cast ballots for the Pirate Party if elections were held now, a stunning triumph for a grouping set up by opponents of copyright enforcement rules.

The Pirate Party, which campaigns in favor of transparency and direct democracy, has had a tiny following in several European countries for a few years but has never before arrive near to political power.

The Panama documents revealed that Gunnlaugsson'south wife owned a previously undisclosed firm with what the government says is $4.1 million in claims on the island'south collapsed banks. His opponents have said that represents a conflict of interest, because the government is negotiating the cost of such claims.

ELECTION DEMANDS

Iceland has struggled to recover from the two thousand eight collapse of its highly indebted banks, which led to favorite protests, the fall of a government and the jailing of many bankers. Many Icelanders still harbor a powerful distrust of their leaders.

"I'm here for many reasons," said Jon Thor Olafsson, a 33-year-old musician who protested close parliament on Wednesday. "To protest the arrogance of the government in its entirety and a ruined financial system in Iceland - as the outrageous no of Icelanders in the Panama Papers shows."

The leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm that specializes in setting up offshore companies were unveiled this week by news organizations around the world, shining a light on the finances of global politicians and public figures.

Gunnlaugsson and his wife bought a company called Wintris Incorporated from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in late two thousand seven through the Luxembourg department of Landsbanki, one of the three Icelandic banks that collapsed in 2008.

Ct records indicate Wintris had investments in bonds in all three of those banks, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which coordinated the leaks investigation. It said Gunnlaugsson sold his fifty % share in Wintris to his wife for $1 on Dec thirty-one, two thousand nine, the year he entered parliament, and violated Iceland'south ethics rules by failing to disclose it.

In a Facebook post on March fifteen, his wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir said she was the sole owner of Wintris'south assets, and that her husband had been listed as co-owner due to a error by the bank, which she said was corrected in two thousand-ninth. The money came from the sale of her share in her family'south business, she said.

Gunnlaugsson has said his wife'south assets were taxed in Iceland.

The estates of the failed banks agreed with Iceland'south central bank and finance ministry late latest year on how to wind down their business ahead of lifting Iceland'south capital controls. Glitnir said in December it'd begun paying creditors, whereas Britain got its final payment from the estate of Landsbanki in January. It wasn't clear whether Wintris was among those creditors who'd been paid.

(Writing by Mia Shanley and Niklas Pollard, extra reporting by Johan Ahlander, Sven Nordenstam and Daniel Dickson in Stockholm, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo and Birna Osk Bjornsdottir in Reykjavik; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Howard Goller)

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