Helvítis Fokking Fokk! Iceland reacts to the Panama Papers.
If you haven't heard of the Panama Papers, you need to. Leaked from a Panamanian law firm, it's one of the largest leaks of all time, revealing the way some of the world's most controversial leaders hide their assets. Allies of Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Ayad Allawi of Iraq. Top Chinese officials. The son of the Malaysian prime minister. Children of Pakistan's PM Nawaz-Sharif. And....
... the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð?
(Credit: Þórður S. Júlíusson)
(Pronunciation: "SIH-mun-dur DAHV-eeth")
Before we go any further, I should correct a common misconception. You know those stories about Iceland being some sort of anticapitalist paradise that defaulted on its loans, said no to the IMF, nationalized its banks, preserved its welfare system, got a new constitution, put all the crooks in jail, and lived happily ever after? Yeah, it's all BS. More to the point our current government is the conservatives. That's right, the same parties that got us into our mess in 2008 got reelected a couple years ago. Hooray to short-term memories!
It's already been known that they've been robbing us blind. They fought a long battle with the EU over getting Iceland more of the mackerel quota... only to just give it to their friends, the wealthy fishing barons. They got Landsbankinn to sell off the company Borgun in a backroom no-bid deal for a tiny fraction of its value to... wait for it... friends and family of top government officials. They've taken silencing of the media under threats of lawsuits and backroom buyouts of media companies (followed by sacking of all critical journalists) to new levels. They smuggled machine guns into the country and lied about them being a gift when exposed. The sort of stuff they've been pulling could comprise a book. And their popularity has gone off a cliff. At the last poll, the prime minister's party was the choice of only 12% of the electorate.
And now this. Seriously, watch his "kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar" reaction when he discovered that he had been caught:
He tried to stop the publication of the interview. He failed.
It's hard to take your eyes away. What happened? The Reykjavík Grapevine goes into detail, but the short of it is that before the crash, he and his wealthy wife used a secret offshore company ("Wintris") to purchase sizeable stakes in the three large Icelandic banks - banks that later became famous worldwide when they so spectacularly collapsed. This turned them into creditors squabbling over the assets of the banks against many other competing interests. Transparency laws when he was elected (on the grounds of supposedly fighting against the evil vulture creditors ) required him to disclose any stake in a shareholding company over 25% (he owned 50% and his wife the other 50%)... he did nothing for three months. Then, rather than disclose it, he sold his stake to his wife for $1 USD - which of course did not remove his conflict of interest either way. Then, as prime minister, he promoted and passed legislation that redirected $2B euros that would have gone to Iceland to instead go to the creditors. Aka, his wife and others ("others" also including other members of the governing coalition)
It was announced on Facebook that there was going to be a protest. The prime minister was dismissive. "It's not like everyone is going to show up."
("Everyone showed up! So quit now!" Credit: Benedict Jóhannesson)
Seriously - for a country the size of Iceland, this protest was massive. More than the police have ever seen.. Not even during the 2008 crisis. Everyone was blown away. Counters counted 22547 people, and weren't able to get to a large portion of the crowd (a typical "big" protest here is a few thousand). 75 international news stations were covering it. There were side protests in towns out far from the capital like Akureyri. There was even one in Oslo.
Here in Reykjavík we were crammed together. Those who made it into Austurvöllur - the large central square - were the lucky ones; the overflow stretched into all of the surrounding streets:
But let's back up for a second. Because people didn't just materialize there. First off, you had to get there.
("HONK -> RESIGNATION NOW / REVOLUTION 5 PM"; Credit: K100)
We're not accustomed to traffic here. Well, we get what we call "traffic" but it's normally kind of a humorous impersonation of real traffic. But today it was real:
("Credit: Kristján Har")
Those who could find a place to park still usually had to go a good way on foot:
(Credit: Þráinn Hauksson)
And so the crowds built.
("CORRUPT INCOMPETENT GOVERNMENT" Credit: Erna Rósa)
("BYE, $IMMI!" Credit: Fettibretta@instagram)
("BYE $SIMMI" Credit: Guðný Rut P)
("OKAY BYE" Credit: Ingibjörg Dögg)
("WHAT WIFE?" - Hörður Sveinsson)
("Remove from me political ends/consequences/funerals" on the statue of Jón Sigurðsson (Iceland's equivalent of George Washington) Also written on the statue: "Simmi, you're fired", with one letter added making it "Simmi, you're the dragon.". Credit: Agnar Kristján)
("Away with this SCUM" / "PUTIN, FIFA, SIMMI" / "INCOMPETENT GOVERNMENT". Credit: Explore Iceland)
("SOCIOPATHIC DAVÍÐ" (play on words between "Sigmundur" and "Siðblindur") - Credit: Ása Ólafsdóttir)
("RESTORE MORALITY TO ICELAND". Credit: Íris Dögg Einarsdóttir)
(Skyr coats the windows of the Parliament building. Credit: Ásta Helgadóttir)
(The outside of the parliament building, pelted in eggs, skyr, etc. Credit: Banani Tómatur@instagram)
(Credit: Vísir / Ernir)
("SIGN!" Credit: birgirol@instagram)
("TRANSPARENCY" Credit: Fanney Birna)
("RESIGNATION IMMEDIATELY" Credit: Kata Maríudóttir)
("GET OUT SIGMUNDUR" / "Bjarni and Simmi, it's gone on long enough!" / "BYE SIMMI!" / "FUCK OFF - GO TO TORTOLA" Credit: Himar Kári Hallbjörnsson / RÚV)
("Tortola-Government GET OUT" Credt: hrefre@instagram)
("ENOUGH.". Credit: Banani Tómatur@instagram)
("NOT OUR GOVERNMENT" Credit: fitbody365@instagram)
(Credit: Haraldur Dean Nelson)
(Credit: Katrín Lilja)
(Credit: Katrín Lilja)
("ELECTIONS NOW!" Credit: Katrín Lilja)
(Credit: Kiddi Kubein)
(Credit: Kristín Anna Ólofsdóttir)
(Credit: Lara Högg)
("FUCK YOU :)" Credit: Reykajvík Grapevine)
(Current coalition RIP / "COUNTRY FOR SALE, MY COUNTRY" / "BYE SIMMI" / "ENOUGH." / "WE CAN'T BE BOTHERED WITH YOU" / "BLATTER PUTIN SIGMUNDUR" Credit: Reykjavík Grapevine)
(Credit: RÚV / Hilmar Kári Hallbjörnsson)
("Credit: Sigrún Skafta")
(Credit: Silja Björk)
(Credit: Sólrún Ingva)
(Credit: Stefanía Skaftadóttir)
("YOU'RE FIRED." Credit: Steinunn Fríðriksdóttir)
(Credit: Sveinn Svavarsson)
("STILL, THE SAME DAMN FUCKING FUCK." Credit: tellthechiroptera@instagram)
("idiot! idiot! IDIOT! okay? idiot! IDIOT!" Credit: Thelma Einars Design)
("$IMMI: YOU ARE NOT ONE OF US" Credit: Vísir)
(Credit: Þóra Sif)
(Credit: Þrúður Óskarsdóttir)
(Credit: Sólveig María)
So, how do you think Simmi is feeling right now? Maybe like this?
("How do you do 'Erase History'?" Credit: Hugleikur Dagsson)
A vote of no confidence will be occurring soon, which would mean the collapse of the government, and likely lead to a Pirate government according to polls. But we can't get our hopes up too much. While the coalition isn't completely rushing to Simmi's aide, they're not running away from the sinking ship yet either. A coalition partner parliamentarian actually tried to claim that the protesters aren't actually protesting the prime minster, that people are just mad in general that money gets stored in "those kinds of islands". As for our prime minister, he's constantly defending himself, insists he's not going to resign, and is actively avoiding the press. When a Norwegian journalist showed up at his house to ask for an interview, he called the Special Forces. (Yes, you read that right... not the police, but the organization responsible for stopping terrorist attacks and the like)
Basically, so far Simmi's reaction has been his usual to people being angry with him:
(Credit: Nanna Árnadóttir)
Not if we have anything to say about it. People are not taking this lying down. And the government is playing with fire if they want to pretend that nothing happened.
(Credit: Kristján Har. Yellow: "Bad Weather". Red: "Lying Government". Orange: "Poor selection in grocery stores." Yellow-orange: Niflheim; Yellow-red: Mordor; Red-orange: 1984; Center: Iceland)