Special forces rescue Icelandic prime minister from furious credit crunch rioters
Coming soon to the streets near you
An angry mob surrounded the car of Icelandic Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde yesterday, throwing eggs and cans at the vehicle and demanding an immediate election.
The breach of security came as protesters, furious about Mr Haarde’s failure to prevent the country’s catastrophic financial crisis, trapped the PM as he sat in his car outside Reykjavik’s government offices.
The seething crowd spattered the building with paint and yoghurt, yelling and banging pans, hurling fireworks and flares at the windows and even lighting a fire in front of the main doors.
Police special forces came to Mr Haarde’s rescue, but the PM admitted that he had been taken aback by the protesters’ behaviour.
He has so far vowed to stay on despite the mounting protests and said a snap election would disrupt efforts to stabilise an economy rocked by the collapse of Icelandic banks in the face of global financial turmoil.
However Iceland’s ruling Independent Party today said it expected an early election this year. The election would not normally be held until 2011.
Protesters carry a placard of Iceland’s Justice Minister Bjorn Bjarnason and a sign reading ‘death power’ during demonstrations
Riot police huddle together as projectiles are thrown at the Parliament building behind them in downtown Reykjavik
‘The Independent Party realises that there will be elections this year,’ the party’s deputy leader Thorgerdur Gunnarsdottir told Parliament.
The prime minister’s office has declined to comment on Mr Gunnarsdottir’s statement.
Anti-government protests have become regular fixtures in Iceland since its financial system disintegrated in October after a decade-long boom fuelled by cheap foreign funding.
The protesters are demanding an immediate election
Protests turned increasingly violent in the early hours of Thursday, with demonstrators determined to oust Mr Haarde, the central bank governor and other senior officials over what they see as ‘incompetent rule’ and cosy ties to the business elite.
Police used tear gas to quell anti-government protesters who injured two policemen with flagstones.
‘There were a couple of hundred (protesters) when they had to use the gas,’ police spokesman Gunnar Sigurdsson said. ‘It went on for two hours or so. There were no arrests. Some injuries, but not serious.’
At midday today, about 30 protesters were demonstrating, chanting for the ‘disqualified government’ to resign and more rallies are planned.
Latvia, Bulgaria and other European countries hit hard by the global economic meltdown have also seen unrest.