A statement sent out last night to foreign media from the prime minister’s office is yet another act of surprise in yesterday’s unprecedented chain of events, following the Panama Papers scandal, which linked Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to a company on Tortola.
The letter states that Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has stepped down as prime minister and that he has suggested to the Progressive Party Parliamentary Group that Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture and Deputy Chairman of the Progressive Party Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson “take over the office of Prime Minister for an unspecified amount of time. The Prime Minister has not resigned and will continue to serve as Chairman of the Progressive Party.”
The letter contradicts reports in media yesterday, which indicated that the prime minister had resigned, following an announcement by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannson that Sigmundur had decided to step down as prime minister.
The media reaction has been that of amazement and disbelief.
Historian Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was interviewed on RÚV radio this morning and asked about his reaction to the statement. “You don’t turn in a mandate to serve as prime minister and then say you’re going to get it back within an unspecified amount of time,” Guðni stated. “Of course Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson can become prime minister again following elections, or whatever, but neither here nor abroad do people make it appear like they’re just taking a short break, so this is totally absurd.”