Rape scandal engulfs Icelandic government

By Anandita Mehta
Staff Writer

The prime minister of Iceland, Bjarni Benediktsson, resigned on Sept. 16, after the discovery of a coverup of the government-backed pardoning for a convicted pedophile, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Benediktsson resigns as leader of Iceland. (AP Photo)
Benediktsson resigns as leader of Iceland. (AP Photo)

The prime minister’s father, Benedikt Sveinsson, wrote a letter vouching for the good character of an “old friend.” This “friend” was convicted and jailed for raping his stepdaughter daily for the past 12 years, starting when his stepdaughter was 12 years old, BBC reported.

The Icelandic people’s outrage lies in the fact that Benediktsson kept his knowledge of the letter private from the public, even though he was informed of his father’s letter in the summer, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The prime minister’s father has apologized for writing the letter of recommendation for his “old friend.” He claimed he did not mean to remove responsibility from his friend or his actions, according to BBC.

The letter written by the prime minister’s father has not only forced his son to resign from the presidency, but it has also further shook the already fragile political structure of the Icelandic government.

The New York Times reported that citizens have a deep-rooted distrust of government and politicians, ever since all three of Iceland’s major banks failed in 2008. This distrust makes for a fragile government where Iceland has had five prime ministers since 2008.

BBC reported Benediktsson was only elected with the support of the Center-Right Party, a coalition of the Bright Future Party, the Independence Party and the Reform Party. Together they managed to win a majority for Benediktsson by only one vote.

The nine-month-old Bright Future party has decided that in light of Sveinsson’s lack of disclosure, they are leaving the Center-Right coalition, according to The Washington Post.

Prime Minister Benediktsson expressed his faith in the resiliency of his party, the Independence Party, claiming that the small party system Iceland sees right now is not successful and believes that voters will support the established parties, according to Bloomberg.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Benediktsson does not see a way for the Independence Party to regain a majority due to their departure from the Bright Future party.

Iceland will have an election on Saturday, Nov. 4, following Benediktsson’s resignation, according to National Post.