Some 80 percent of Icelanders surveyed by Capacent Gallup say they support having one or more non-elected government ministers; and three quarters also support government proposals to lower the number of ministries. The result is not pleasant reading for the least popular elected ministers.
Among the government’s ideas to reduce the number of ministries to save money is to create three new ministries which would encompass the work of more than one current ministry: a new Industry and Employment Ministry, Welfare Ministry and Internal Affairs Ministry.
In Iceland, like many other countries, it is up to the parliamentary majority coalition to come together and form a governing cabinet of ministers from among their ranks. However, when the Icelandic government fell in February 2009 the interim Social Democrat/Left Green minority government drafted in two experts from outside parliament as ministers in the run up to elections in April that year.
Lawyer Ragna Arnadottir as Minister for Justice and economist Gylfi Magnusson as Minister for Economic and Business Affairs both proved popular and enjoyed public trust. As such they were asked to carry on after the Social Democrats and Left Green Movement won the April election. Both non-political ministers remain extremely popular despite the fact that their positions could be considered undemocratic by some.
When the coalition proposed reducing the number of ministries (something which the Left Green part of government is less enthusiastic than the Social Democrats about), the two unelected ministers were obvious candidates for the axe. But their good work, popularity and the trust they still enjoy are now proving a headache in that regard.