Iceland’s president has refused a request from the country’s embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, to dissolve parliament and call snap elections until he has had time to consult all of the country’s political parties. As the island’s political crisis deepened on Tuesday, its president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, flew back early from a US visit to sound out party representatives in parliament, where the leftwing opposition has presented a motion of no confidence in Gunnlaugsson’s centre-right coalition government. Further mass protests were planned in Reykjavik for later on Tuesday as pressure mounted on the prime minister to resign following revelations in the leaked Panama Papers that his wife owned a secretive offshore investment company with multi-million pound claims on Iceland’s failed banks.
“I need to determine if there is support for a dissolution within the ruling coalition and others,” Grímsson said. “The prime minister could not confirm this for me, and therefore I am not prepared at this time to dissolve parliament.” Gunnlaugsson had earlier threatened to call fresh elections if his junior coalition partner did not support his bid to stay in office.
The prime minister said on Facebook that he had met the Independence party leader and finance minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, and informed him that if his MPs “did not feel up to supporting the government”, new elections would be held as soon as possible.
Benediktsson, whose name also appeared in the leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm in connection with a Seychelles-based company of which he once owned a third, also returned home from holiday in Florida on Tuesday. He pointedly declined to back Gunnlaugsson on Monday, saying the leaks were a “heavy blow” to the government.