Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


New right-wing coalition formed, former punk-rocker becomes government minister

By Staff

  • Screw the system Óttarr Proppé, one of the leaders of the new coalition government, in his former role as a scathing critic of the establishment. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below.

An agreement on a new coalition government has been reached by the conservative Independence party, the center-right Restoration and the centrist Bright Future. The three parties have been in negotiations since before Christmas. The agreement marks the end of one of the longest and most difficult government negotiations in Iceland's history: Several rounds of negotiations between the parties have ended with failure since the elections of 29 November.

Read more: The stalemate in Icelandic politics: What' going on and why is there no coalition in sight?

Bjarni Benediktsson, Óttarr Proppé, Benedikt Jóhannesson
The new right wing coalition Óttarr Proppé, who was once a punk rocker, sits at the left end, then Bjarni Benediktsson of the conservative independence party and Benedikt Jóhannesson of the center right Restoration. Photo/Ernir

Former punk rocker to join the conservative cabinet
Bjarni Benediktsson, the chairman of the conservative Independence party is set to become the prime minister of the new coalition government. Benedikt Jóhannesson, the chairman of the center-right Restoration will become the minister of finance, while Óttarr Proppé, the chairman of Bright future will either head the Ministry of the Environment or the Ministry of Health.

Facing political head-wind from the get-go
The new coalition will have an extremely narrow majority in parliament: 32 MPs out of 63.

The new coalition government faces significant political head-wind as the opposition parties have pledge to work together to keep its feet to the fire, oppose controversial bills and provide all other restraint in parliament. With the narrow majority of one MP the government will therefore have to show significant subtlety in getting controversial bills through parliament.

The clouds of the Panama Papers follow new coalition
Bjarni Benediktsson, the incoming Prime Minister, has also come under fire for having kept secret a report on Icelandic assets in tax havens, prepared by a task force formed after the revelations of the Panama Papers. The report had been delivered to his ministry on September 13, but he decided not to make the report public or disclose it's findings to parliament until this week. 

The leaders of the Left-Green Movement and the Pirate Party have argued that the findings of the report should have been available to the public ahead of the November 29 elections. Bjarni has given conflicting explanations as to why he decided to keep the report from the public. This is all the more problematic, as Bjarni was himself named in the Panama Papers.

From a scathing critic of the establishment to one of its members
Much of the criticism has primarily been directed at Óttarr Proppé. Before going into politics Óttarr played with punk rock bands HAM, Dr. Spock and Rass. While he was a punk rocker he was frequently highly critical of the establishment and the powers that be. A popular song by Rass savaged the fisheries system, the qota-barons (the wealthy owners of the largest fishing companies) and economic inequality. Some political opponents of the government have argued there is a certain irony in a punk rocker joining a conservative cabinet headed by Bjarni Benediktsson, a politician whose name was mentioned in the Panama papers.


Agreement short on specifics
The chairmen of the three parties announced the formation of the government in Gerðarsafn Art Museum in Kópavogur, a suburban municipality of Reykjavík. The agreement is short on specifics, but makes sweeping promises of "significant investments" in infrastructure, healthcare and education. Greater investment in health care and a shoring up of the social welfare systems were among the main issues in the November elections.

Read more: Analysis: No coalition in sight after Left-greens give up on forming a center-left government

Restoration and Bright future had previously walked out on talks with the parties of the left, on the grounds that these had not been willing to agree to "fundamental revisions" to the agricultural and fisheries system. The two parties had campaigned on the issue. Many political commentators were therefore surprised to see that the agremenet between the new coalition parties unveiled today lacks a roadmap or details on such a revision, insetad the platform talks of "looking into" other choises than the current system.


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