Thousands Protest In Iceland After Prime Minister Refuses To Step Down

An online petition demanding Gunnlaugsson's resignation has amassed more than 28,000 signatures.

05/04/2016 8:10 AM AEST | Updated 05/04/2016 8:10 AM AEST
Stigtryggur Johannsson/Reuters
Thousands of Icelanders are demanding Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson's immediate resignation after damning revelations came to light in the Panama Papers controversy.

Hordes of protesters swarmed Iceland's Parliament on Monday to demand that Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his government immediately step down and hold early general elections

Documents leaked in the massive Panama Papers controversy reveal that in 2007, Gunnlaugsson and his wife purchased an offshore company that owned bonds in three Icelandic banks that collapsed during the nation's financial crisis the following year. 

Gunnlaugsson's finance minister and interior minister also had stakes in offshore companies, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which leaked the documents on Sunday. Gunnlaugsson's failure to disclose these assets since he joined Parliament in 2009 constitutes a violation of Iceland's ethics rules, the ICIJ claims.

Icelanders' political disgruntlement was already high amid other allegations of corruption before news of the Panama Papers broke. According to an opinion poll conducted earlier this year, nearly 70 percent did not support the current coalition government.

Stigtryggur Johannsson/Reuters
An online petition has amassed more than 28,000 signatures calling for the government to step down.

As of Monday afternoon, an online petition demanding Gunnlaugsson's resignation had more than 28,000 signatures. Iceland's population is approximately 330,000. Opposition parties have called for a no confidence vote to be held later in the week.

In a televised interview, the prime minister defended his innocence and rejected calls for his resignation, saying he will "let the voters judge the work of the government." He also apologized for storming out of the room after he was confronted about the scandal during another recent interview.

It is not yet clear how many protesters gathered outside Iceland's Parliament on Monday, but more than 10,000 people confirmed their attendance on a public Facebook event before the demonstrations. Many people used social media to voice their outrage and share images from the protests.

When people come together to support what they stand for #surreal #liveriot #protestagainstprimeminister #viewfromhotel

A photo posted by ʝєѕѕι¢α αии (@jtru42) on

Iceland protests against the prime minister #iceland #protests #democracy #citizens #photographer

A photo posted by Dominika Olga Skw (@dominika.skw) on

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