Tuesday saw the first head roll in the Panama Papers leak with the resignation of Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. Reported links to offshore companies hiding millions of dollars in assets embroiled the prime minister and his family in political upheaval in Reykjavik this week. After Gunnlaugsson unsuccessfully tried to dissolve Parliament and call elections in a bid to hold onto his job, the embattled leader stepped down from his post, although he said he would continue as the head of the center-right Progressive Party.
That’s what happened. Or did it happen? These were some of the headlines firmly in the “that’s what happened” camp.
By Tuesday evening, however, the prime minister appeared to be pumping the brakes on, well, everything. Gunnlaugsson, in essence, said: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa … I said I was stepping aside, not stepping down. That’s how I’m reading it anyway. Or more specifically the prime minister’s office said this in an emailed statement to the international press:
Today the Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has suggested to the Progressive Party Parliamentary group that the Progressive Party Vice-Chairman 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.
“As tensions escalated on Tuesday evening, Mr Gunnlaugsson denied that he had formally proposed a dissolution of parliament, in effect accusing the president of lying,” the Financial Times reports. “Then late on Tuesday, a government spokesman denied that Mr Gunnlaugsson had in fact resigned, saying that he had merely asked Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, the minister of fisheries and agriculture, to take over as prime minister ‘for an unspecified amount of time.’”
Wednesday should be fun.