Saturday 26 May 2018

Iceland minister says proposal to make him new PM has been approved by president

People protest in front of the parliament building in Reykjavik (AP)
People protest in front of the parliament building in Reykjavik (AP)

Iceland's fisheries minister says the president has approved a proposal that makes him Iceland's new prime minister.

Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson has emerged from the presidential residence to tell reporters the news - a development that comes several days after his predecessor resigned after being linked to an offshore account.

Mr Johannsson said getting President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson's backing "is a good thing" that will allow the centre-right governing coalition to continue.

But the coalition faces a stiff challenge in parliament from opposition parties, which are demanding an immediate election after a scandal caused by former prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson's use of offshore accounts.

The news came out after a massive leak of financial data involving a Panamanian law firm.

"This is of course an exciting opportunity, but it's under bizarre circumstances," said Mr Johannsson, a 53-year-old who has combined his work as a veterinarian with his political career. "It is me as prime minister, but it's important to be humble. It is a big task ahead to boost the confidence in politics and politicians."

Mr Johannsson said he does not think the offshore accounts scandal has damaged Iceland's reputation.

"We have been in bad cases before and we got through it," he said.

The opposition introduced a no-confidence measure on Monday aimed at Mr Gunnlaugsson but now proposes a vote against the entire coalition government.

Mr Gunnlaugsson has denied doing anything illegal and said he and his wife - also linked to the offshore account - paid all their taxes. He plans to remain in parliament and keep his post as party chairman.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the president's residence while the new prime minister and other cabinet ministers were inside - but there was no sign of the rousing protests held in Reykjavik for the last three days.

Press Association

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