MP’s deputy staying put
For an MP to switch parties is not unprecedented, but Birgir (pictured below) is the first to ever do so before the first sitting of Alþingi after an election. MPs usually quit due to major intra-party disputes that arise during parliament. Birgir said this weekend that he made his decision in discussion with his deputy and that he she would follow him to Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn. The party even went as far as to welcome her, despite her conspicuous lack of public comment.
Erna Bjarnadóttir (pictured above) told Bylgjan radio this morning that she is, in fact, staying with Miðflokkurinn.
This means that if Birgir needs to take time off (which is common for a variety of reasons including travel on Alþingi business, external meetings, illness, and more), Miðflokkurinn will have an extra, third, MP, and Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn will drop by one for the period of his absence.
Birgir told RÚV radio this morning that he believes Erna changed her mind about swapping parties because of the harsh discussion and coverage of his case. He emphasises that his decision stems back to the Klaustur scandal, which he says he spoke out against and was ostracised within the party as a result. His position has been tenuous since the start of this year, but a message of criticism from above five days before the election sealed his decision—but it was too late to quit at that point. The outcome of the election, which sees the same Miðflokkurinn MPs elected to Alþingi, means he cannot sit alongside them, he says.
Answering questions on the radio, Birgir said he admits it might have been better to wait awhile before switching parties. He would not comment on whether his decision might have been different if Miðflokkurinn had performed better in the election and/or if Bergþór Ólason had not been elected.
Birgir is the 16th elected MP to leave their party since 2003, but the first ever to do so before Alþingi convenes for the first time.