Bjarni Benediktsson (born 1970)

Bjarni Benediktsson (born 26 January 1970), known colloquially as Bjarni Ben, is an Icelandic politician, who served as Prime Minister from January to November 2017. He has been the leader of the Icelandic Independence Party since 2009, and previously served as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs from 2013 to 2017, a post he later retained under Katrin Jakobsdottir.


Bjarni Benediktsson
Bjarni Benediktsson vid Nordiska Radets session i Stockholm.jpg
Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs
Assumed office
30 November 2017
Prime MinisterKatrín Jakobsdóttir
Preceded byBenedikt Jóhannesson
In office
23 May 2013 – 11 January 2017
Prime MinisterSigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Preceded bySteingrímur J. Sigfússon
Succeeded byBenedikt Jóhannesson
27th Prime Minister of Iceland
In office
11 January 2017 – 30 November 2017
PresidentGuðni Th. Jóhannesson
Preceded bySigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Succeeded byKatrín Jakobsdóttir
Leader of the Independence Party
Assumed office
29 March 2009
Preceded byGeir Haarde
Personal details
Born (1970-01-26) 26 January 1970 (age 51)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Political partyIndependence Party
Spouse(s)Þóra Margrét Baldvinsdóttir
Children4
Alma materUniversity of Iceland
University of Miami
Nickname(s)Bjarni Ben

Education, early career and familyEdit

Bjarni was born in Reykjavík. After obtaining a law degree at the University of Iceland, Bjarni completed his studies in Germany and the United States before returning to Iceland to work as a lawyer.[1]

The Icelandic Prime Minister who was also named Bjarni Benediktsson was his great-uncle.[2]

Political careerEdit

Bjarni entered the national parliament in 2003 and has been active in several committees in the areas of economy and taxation, industry and foreign affairs.

Bjarni was elected leader of the conservative Independence Party at its national convention on 29 March 2009 with 58.1 percent of the vote, about a month before the April 2009 Icelandic legislative elections.[3] The party came in second in the elections with 16 seats, nine fewer than in the previous elections. After conceding defeat on 26 April 2009, Bjarni said his party had lost the trust of voters. "We lost this time but we will win again later," he said.[4]

In the 2013 Althing elections on 28 April the Independence Party and their ally the Progressive Party each won 19 seats.[5] On 17 May 2013 Icelandic media reported that Bjarni would take up the position of Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs in a cabinet led by Progressive Party leader Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.[6] In the 2016 Althing elections, the Independence Party won 21 seats, while the Progressive party only won 8. Shortly after the results, Prime Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson resigned from his post. A new coalition between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future was formed in January 2017 with Bjarni designated to become Prime Minister.[7]

ControversiesEdit

Ashley MadisonEdit

In 2015, it was revealed that Bjarni had registered on Ashley Madison, a website for extramarital affairs. In response, Bjarni and his wife said that they had both registered on the site because they were curious. His username was "IceHot1".[8]

Panama PapersEdit

As reported in 2016, Bjarni "shared what is known as 'power of attorney' over a shell company" involved in the Panama Papers.[9]

Bjarni came under criticism in January 2017 for not revealing a government report on the offshore bank activities of Icelanders before the 2016 parliamentary elections. Bjarni falsely told reporters that he had not seen the report prior to the elections. He later apologized for his "inaccurate timeline".[10]

Breach of COVID-19 rulesEdit

Shortly before midnight on 23 December 2020, police in Reykjavík dissolved a gathering of 40-50 people at the art gallery Ásmundarsalur for breach of COVID-19 restrictions. Police report stated that a senior minister in the government had been present, later revealed to be Bjarni. At the time, COVID-19 restrictions limited gatherings in Iceland to ten people. The venue, which sells alcoholic beverages, was also not allowed to be open after 10 pm.[11]

Bjarni claimed that he had visited the exhibition with his wife to greet their friends and that he was only present for 15 minutes during which the number of guests increased. "The right reaction would have been to leave the gallery as soon as I realized that the number of people exceeded the limit. I didn't do that and I apologise for that mistake" he said in a statement posted on Facebook.[12] According to a source of the newspaper Vísir, Bjarni was however present for at least 45 minutes.[13]

Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said that Bjarni's actions set a "bad example" and he did not expect the public to perceive it well. Furthermore, he said the gathering had been a clear violation of COVID-19 restrictions.[14]

Prime Minister (2017)Edit

Bjarni became Prime Minister of Iceland on 11 January 2017.[15] In September 2017, the future of the Icelandic government and Bjarni's tenure as prime minister was put in doubt when the Bright Future party withdrew from the governing coalition. Bright Future did this in the wake of reporting that government ministers of the Independence Party had concealed that Bjarni's father, Benedikt Sveinsson, recommended that the criminal record of convicted child sex offender Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson be erased.[16][17]

The Minister of Justice, Sigríður Andersen, had informed Bjarni about his father's involvement in the letter of recommendation in July, and refused to disclose the recommendation's author until compelled to by a parliamentary committee.[18][19]

Finance Minister (2017–present)Edit

After the 2017 parliamentary elections, Katrín Jakobsdóttir became prime minister, and in a coalition agreement, Bjarni became the finance minister again.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Bjarni Benediktsson". Alþingi (in Icelandic). Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Verður málverkið af Bjarna uppi á veggnum í Höfða? - Vísir". visir.is (in Icelandic). Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  3. ^ "New Chairman Elected for Iceland's Independents". Iceland Review. Reykjavik. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  4. ^ "Centre-left wins Iceland election". BBC News. 26 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  5. ^ "Iceland vote: Centre-right opposition wins election". BBC News. 28 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Iceland Election: Sigmundur Davíð to be Prime Minister". Iceland Review. Reykjavik. 18 May 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  7. ^ Arnarsdóttir, Eygló Svala (9 January 2017). "New Government Announced Tomorrow". Iceland Review. Reykjavik. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  8. ^ Hafstað, Vala (20 August 2015). "Minister Entangled in Ashley Madison Affair". Iceland Review. Reykjavik. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  9. ^ Ryan Chittum, Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson, Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier (4 April 2016). Panama Papers: Iceland’s prime minister had offshore holdings in collapsed banks. The Irish Times Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  10. ^ "New Iceland PM says "Maybe a mistake not putting the offshore accounts report forward"". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  11. ^ Örlygsdóttir, Urður (10 December 2020). "Nýjar reglur um samkomutakmarkanir taka gildi". www.frettabladid.is (in Icelandic). Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Bjarni Benediktsson". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  13. ^ Daðason, Kolbeinn Tumi (24 December 2020). "Sögulegur tölvupóstur lögreglu kom upp um ráðherra - Vísir". visir.is. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  14. ^ Arnljótsdóttir, Þórdís (24 December 2020). "Slæmt fordæmi hjá Bjarna, segir Þórólfur". RÚV. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Iceland ousted one leader named in the Panama Papers, but ended up with another on the list". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  16. ^ Henley, Jon (15 September 2017). "Row over sexual abuse letter brings down Iceland's government". The Guardian.
  17. ^ "Iceland government collapses over paedophile furore". BBC News. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  18. ^ Thorsson, Elias (15 September 2017). Evans, Catherine (ed.). "Iceland may face new election after governing party quits over 'breach of trust'". Reuters. The Ministry of Justice, under minister Sigridur Andersen, a member of Benediktsson’s Independence Party, had initially refused to disclose who had written the letter of recommendation but was later ordered to do so by a parliamentary committee. Andersen told broadcaster Stod 2 that she had informed Benediktsson about his father’s involvement last July, but had not disclosed that information to anyone else.
  19. ^ Fontaine, Paul (14 September 2017). "PM's Father Endorsed "Restored Honour" For Convicted Paedophile". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Even more damning is the fact that public broadcasting service RÚV now reports that the Minister of Justice, Sigríður Andersen, informed the Prime Minister last July that his father had provided this letter.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Geir Haarde
Leader of the Independence Party
2009–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Katrín Júlíusdóttir
Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs
2013–2017
Succeeded by
Benedikt Jóhannesson
Preceded by
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Prime Minister of Iceland
2017
Succeeded by
Katrín Jakobsdóttir
Preceded by
Benedikt Jóhannesson
Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs
2017–present
Incumbent