Alþingi committee in disarray

17.09.2019 - 14:31
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Óðinn Jónsson - Morgunvaktin
This morning’s scheduled meeting of Alþingi’s environment and transport committee was adjourned within minutes. The only issue on the agenda was the election of a chairperson.

Bergþór Ólason, MP for Miðflokkurinn (the Centre Party), was the chairman but stepped aside in the wake of the Klaustur scandal. Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) MP Jón Gunnarsson took over temporarily, and a new chair was to be elected today. When a committee member from the opposition parties suggested Karl Gauti Hjaltason, a Miðflokkurinn MP who was also involved in the Klaustur scandal, the meeting was abandoned.

Bergþór’s chairmanship of the committee has been disputed following the controversy around the things caught on the secret recording of six MPs at Klaustur bar last November—specifically the unsavoury comments about women and minorities, both inside and outside parliament. Bergþór took a leave of absence and did not re-take his place as chairman of the environment and transport committee immediately when he returned to Alþingi. Members of the opposition were against him taking the chair again but his party refused to offer any other candidate. 

Today’s committee meeting started at 09.00 with the aim of electing a new chair. Björn Leví Gunnarsson (pictured above), the non-voting observer for Píratar (the Pirates) suggested Karl Gauti instead of Bergþór. According to the coalition agreement between the three governing parties, the chairmanship of the environment and transport committee should be in the hands of Miðflokkurinn. 

“The agreement states that there be a Miðflokkurinn member in this chair,” Björn Leví said. “Miðflokkurinn has declined to nominate anyone other than Bergþór Ólason, but there is another Miðflokkurinn member in this committee. When push comes to shove, it is the committee itself that votes for its chairperson. No [coalition] agreement would be broken therefore if Bergþór were not the chairman.” 

At this point, acting chairman Jón Gunnarsson adjourned the meeting for a short time to allow members to discuss the unexpected proposal. When the meeting started again, the Framsóknarflokkurinn (Progressive Party) representative Líneik Anna Sævarsdóttir asked that the three governing parties (that do not include Miðflokkurinn) be allowed to meet and discuss the issue. The meeting was therefore called to a close. 

Karl Gauti said after the meeting that Björn Leví did not discuss his idea with him beforehand. “I didn’t even have the opportunity to reject the proposal,” He said—adding that he would have rejected it: “We already had a good candidate for this,” he said, referring to Bergþór. “It is just muddying the waters,” he said of Björn Leví’s proposal.

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