Opinion

Panama Papers: Iceland's Pirate Party Prepared to Take Power

iceland protests panama papers prime minister
People protest against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson outside parliament in Reykjavik, Iceland, April 4, 2016. HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is the parliamentary chair of Iceland’s Pirate Party, an international movement for digital rights and democratic reform that is the country’s largest political party. Amid protests in Reykjavik over the prime minister’s links with off-shore tax havens, all the opposition parties have jointly called for his resignation, the Pirate Party has also called for a new constitution written by and for the people of Iceland in the wake of the financial crisis to be implemented as promised after a national referendum in 2012, which was ignored. 

The decision by Iceland’s Prime Minister to not resign in the wake of Panama papers scandal is deeply damaging to our country and a sign that our constitution needs to be overhauled completely.

Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has been on all the front pages of newspapers around Europe—with his face alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin—for his involvement with a secretive offshore company that allegedly hid millions of dollars of investments.

The news report in Iceland on Sunday evening that detailed the scandal rocked Icelandic society in a similar way to how it was shaken in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008.

At the time, Gunnlaugsson called the creditors of the failed banks “vultures”, but as it turns out he could also have been talking about himself and his wife.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum, are shocked that the prime minister does not see this as a reason to resign. Every minute that he remains in power, he is damaging our reputation in the eyes of the world.

But the most important thing is that the prime minister has completely lost the trust of the voters. It is going to be very difficult for members of the ruling parties in parliament to defend the prime minister in the vote of no confidence that we expect to occur in the next few days.

You can sense the anger among Icelanders. Thousands of people took part in protests outside the nation’s parliament last night and I expect protests to continue until the prime minister steps down or a vote of no confidence forces him out.

iceland protests pirate party panama papers People demonstrate against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country's collapsed banks. Stigtryggur Johannsson/ Reuters

I joined these protests and I have announced that I will be standing for elections for the Pirate Party for a short term, where we will implement a new constitution and legalize it. The next election is set to take place on or before April 27, 2017, but the Pirate Party and other opposition parties have called for a snap election.

Currently we are experiencing similar events to that which Iceland experienced in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. And yet we still don’t have a satisfactory system for holding those in power to account—other than standing outside the parliament and screaming it out loud.

The constitution we would implement was written by and for the people of Iceland in 2011 in response to the financial meltdown. It would include the separation of powers to prevent another economic collapse, while also reforming the way MPs are elected and judges are appointed. It is completely unacceptable that despite a referendum in 2012 that saw 67 percent of the electorate voting to put this new crowd-sourced constitution into law, it still hasn’t been.

It is difficult to say at this stage exactly what the complete ramifications of this scandal are, but it is obvious that our nation’s reputation will be severely damaged abroad, simply because we are the only Western European country with a sitting minister—let alone a prime minister—that has been directly implicated in this scandal.

If this was a comedy it would be funny but this is actually our head of state. This is not what Icelanders are like and this is not what Iceland is.