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article imageIceland could face another vote as coalition loses majority

By Ilgin KARLIDAG (AFP)     Sep 15, 2017 in World

Iceland's coalition government was in crisis Friday after one party pulled out over a scandal concerning the prime minister's father and another called for fresh elections.

Less than a year since the country last went to the polls, Bright Future left the centre-right government without its wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

Bright Future accused Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson of failing to inform the government that his father had shown support to a convicted paedophile in his bid for clemency.

The Nordic island nation could now face a second snap election in a year, following the collapse of the last government over the Panama Papers scandal that embroiled several ministers and forced former prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to resign.

The ruling centre-right coalition of the conservative Independence Party, led by Benediktsson, the centre-right Reform Party and the centrist Bright Future, was formed only nine months ago after the 2016 October snap vote.

It had held a one-seat majority in Iceland's single-chamber parliament, the Althingi.

Bright Future said in a Facebook post that its executive committee "has decided to terminate the cooperation with the government of Bjarni Benediktsson".

"The reason for the termination is a serious breach of trust within the government," Bright Future added.

Reform Party leader Benedikt Johannesson early Friday called for new elections to be held.

Icelandic media reports suggested several possible scenarios: the minority government could remain in place if it cooperates with another party, President Gudni Johannesson could designate another party to form a coalition, or new elections could take place.

Benediktsson's father, Benedikt Sveinsson, an entrepeneur, is at the centre of the latest crisis as he reportedly signed a letter of recommendation for a man, convicted in 2004 of having raped his stepdaughter almost every day for 12 years, so he could erase his criminal record.

Smari McCarthy, a lawmaker for the anti-establishment Pirates Party, said on his Twitter account: "Iceland's Jimmy Savile case: our PM, who was in the Panama Papers, has hid for two months his father's support for a paedophile's clemency."

After serving his sentence, the convicted child molester had applied for a "re-establishment of honour" to enable him to expunge his criminal record, which is permitted under Icelandic law and is subject to the support of persons of good character.

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