Iceland PM steps aside after protests over Panama Papers revelations

Iceland PM steps aside after protests over Panama Papers revelations

Sigmundur Dav Gunnlaugsson steps aside amid widespread anger over allegations his family attempted to hide millions in offshore account

Icelands embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Dav Gunnlaugsson, has become the first major casualty of the Panama Papers, stepping aside from his office amid mounting public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore.

What was planned as a mass protest in Reykjavik on Tuesday evening turned to muted satisfaction as demonstrators vented their anger following revelations that Gunnlaugsson once owned and his wife still owns an offshore investment company with multimillion-pound claims on Icelands failed banks.

We were hoping parliament would be dissolved, said Steingrimur Oli Einarsson, a fish oil trader, one of a few hundred to brave a freezing northeasterly wind on parliament square in downtown Reykjavik.

Of course were happy the prime minister has stepped down. But we are not satisfied with who is taking over from him, and with the fact that the government itself is still there.

Gunnlaugssons office said in a statement that he was not resigning, but handing over the office of prime minister for an unspecified time to Sigurur Ingi Jhannsson, the agriculture and fisheries minister.

Gunnlaugsson was very proud of his success resurrecting Icelands economy after the 2008 financial crisis, the statement said, and especially proud of his governments handling of … the creditors of the failed Icelandic banks.

Outside parliament, Sigrin Eiroksdottir, a pre-school teacher, said the occasion doesnt really feel like any kind of victory. There is so much still to put right in this country in terms of ethics, of how the world looks at us.

Lara Gardarsdottir, an illustrator, said: Its good news hes resigned, yes. But we need far more drastic change. Were left with the same gang in charge. And the guy whos replacing the prime minister, a couple of days ago he was saying he saw nothing wrong in what hed done.

The move still requires the formal approval of both the junior partner in the centre-right coalition government, the Independence party, and Icelands president, lafur Ragnar Grmsson, and a snap election is still a possibility.

The countrys leftwing opposition parties, who earlier this week presented a motion of no confidence in the government, said they were by no means satisfied. It is clear our demand for new elections still stands, the Left Green party leader, Katrin Jakobsdottir, said.

The prime minister, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, had earlier sought to remain in office by asking to dissolve parliament and call new elections. But after the president turned him down, the prime minister met senior Progressive party officials and reportedly suggested himself that he step down.

The Independence party leader, finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson, whose name also appeared in the leaked documents in connection with a Seychelles-based company of which he once owned a third, was holding talks with Grmsson, who flew back early from the US to sound out all of Icelands parliamentary party representatives as the islands political crisis deepened on Tuesday.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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