Iceland’s finance minister says it will not be possible to sell the State’s share in financial institutions before elections this autumn, but that he would like to submit 2017’s budget bill to parliament before it adjourns.
He therefore calculates that the election will take place in October—though would not be drawn on a specific date; adding that that will come “soon”.
Some opponents of Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and chairman of the Independence Party, have claimed that elections will not be held until he has had the chance to sell off state assets cheaply to friends and cronies. This is something Bjarni strongly denies.
Leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Árni Páll Árnason, has put forward a parliamentary bill that would temporarily ban the sale of public stakes in financial institutions. Asked about the bill, he told reporters that the current government cannot be trusted with such matters, Vísir reports.
“I have recently described for parliament that it is not timely to work on the sale of the banks or to start preparing to sell the banks before the election. This was said last week but there must now be a proposal from me. Maybe you could say that this bill confirms that the Social Democrats want to sell the banks starting in November,” Bjarni said. “But perhaps the Social Democrats will attempt to get into power first.”
Before the banks are sold, the longer-term State ownership strategy must have been finalized and circumstances changed after Íslandsbanki became state owned. This could all take several years and will not happen before the election, which will probably be in October, Bjarni said.
“We have also said that we want to listen to points-of-view and it will only become clear subsequently. I’m not saying that it could be delayed by six or nine months, just when in the autumn we should schedule it. Based upon when parliament breaks for recess,” the minister said of the election.
Will the public know the precise election date within the next two weeks?
“I reckon so. But I also say that with provisions. It is not only in my hands.”