Iceland’s embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, has become the first major casualty of the Panama Papers, stepping aside from his office amid mounting public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore.
What was planned as a mass protest in Reykjavik on Tuesday evening turned to muted satisfaction as demonstrators vented their anger following revelations that Gunnlaugsson once owned – and his wife still owns – an offshore investment company with multimillion-pound claims on Iceland’s failed banks.
“We were hoping parliament would be dissolved,” said Steingrimur Oli Einarsson, a fish oil trader, one of a few hundred to brave a freezing northeasterly wind on parliament square in downtown Reykjavik.
“Of course we’re happy the prime minister has stepped down. But we are not satisfied with who is taking over from him, and with the fact that the government itself is still there.”
Gunnlaugsson’s office said in a statement that he was not resigning, but “handing over the office of prime minister for an unspecified time” to Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the agriculture and fisheries minister.
Gunnlaugsson was “very proud” of his success resurrecting Iceland’s economy after the 2008 financial crisis, the statement said, and “especially proud of his government’s handling of ... the creditors of the failed Icelandic banks”.