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Iceland’s Finance Minister Is Ready to Beat Back Pirate Attack

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Icelandic Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, whose government was forced to call an early election amid controversy stemming from the Panama Papers leak, says he has “serious doubts” about working with the upstart Pirate Party.

According to the latest opinion poll, the loose grouping of Internet activists may secure 25 percent of the vote in the Oct. 29 general election and is trailing only Benediktsson’s Independence Party, which enjoyed support of 26.2 percent.

The Pirate Party has benefited from lingering voter dissatisfaction with the establishment following the nation’s 2008 economic collapse. Amid raucous street protests in April, the government was also forced to promise an early election after Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned amid a furor over his wife’s offshore accounts. The scandal has overshadowed the government’s success in dismantling capital controls, overseeing an economic expansion and fast declining unemployment.

"We will work with those that get a democratic support in the elections, as long as we can create a functioning government," Benediktsson, 46, said Wednesday in an interview.

The Pirates have so far revealed few concrete proposals. One of the group’s leader, Birgitta Jonsdottir, has said it will soon start working on a 10-year plan that will be revealed to Icelanders ahead of the election.

"The Pirate Party has stirred up the political debate in Iceland," Benediktsson said. “I think it has been healthy for the democratic discussion in Iceland. But as a trustworthy partner and especially as a leading party, I have very serious doubts about the Pirate Party, although I won’t exclude anything beforehand.”

Benediktsson said he’s prepared to become prime minister if he gets the mandate. His center-right Independence Party has taken part of 20 out of Iceland’s 30 coalition governments since the country gained independence from Denmark in 1944.

“I will take what the voters will give us and do my best to work with it,” he said.

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