Iceland sets October 28 election date after coalition collapses

Reykjavik (AFP) –


Iceland's president agreed on Monday to dissolve parliament and set new legislative elections for October 28 after the collapse of the country's centre-right government.

"I've accepted the prime minister's proposal to dissolve parliament on October 28 and hold legislative elections the same day," President Gudni Johannesson said in a statement issued after a meeting with Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson.

The current cabinet will carry out government business until the election.

Benediktsson had called Friday for new elections after the Bright Future party left the three-way, centre-right coalition, stripping it of its one-seat parliamentary majority just nine months after coming to power.

On Saturday, Johannesson had accepted the government's resignation and asked the prime minister to stay on in a caretaker role.

"I examined the possibility of a new government that would enjoy the support of a majority in parliament," he said in his statement Monday.

But after the prime minister's talks with party leaders, "it was clear that no new majority would have been possible," he said.

The coalition held the slimmest majority possible in parliament, with 32 of 63 seats.

Bright Future, a centrist pro-European party, accused Benediktsson of failing to inform the government that his father had signed a letter supporting a convicted paedophile's bid to have his criminal record erased after serving five and a half years in prison.

Benediktsson's father, an entrepreneur named Benedikt Sveinsson, had written a letter of support for a man who was convicted in 2004 of having raped his stepdaughter almost every day for 12 years.

The situation has intensified a fierce public debate over the procedure for rehabilitating convicts -- though it does not change or reverse a verdict -- which had flared in recent weeks over another convicted paedophile who was granted an expunged record.

A growing number of Icelanders are opposed to the practice, known as "restored honour".

Bright Future has accused Benediktsson of keeping his coalition partners in the dark after he was informed of his father's letter in July.