Iceland's center-right govt collapses amid pedophile scandal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Iceland's nine-month-old, center-right government collapsed Friday after a small coalition member quit and the country's prime minister called for a new election "as soon as possible," according to Icelandic media.

The centrist Bright Future Party quit over an attempt by the prime minister's father to help clear a convicted pedophile's name. It said in a Facebook post that there was "a serious breach of trust" behind its departure.

Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson took office in January with his Independence Party, the Reform Party and the centrists.

Together the three parties held the slimmest of majorities — 32 of the 63 seats in parliament following the Oct. 29 election, which was called after the former prime minister resigned amid protests over his offshore holdings that were revealed in the Panama Papers leak.

The Bright Future party has four seats in Iceland's parliament, the Althingi.

Benediktsson's father, Benedikt Sveinsson, had helped a convicted child molester apply for a clause within Iceland's judicial system allowing a person who has served their sentence for a serious crime to "restore their honor" and seek employment again.

In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson was convicted of raping his stepdaughter almost every day for 12 years and was sentenced to five years in prison.

When it came out that some government members, including its head, had kept information from the public about a letter seeking to expurge Hauksson's record, the Bright Future party said it was quitting.

Benediktsson is a former finance minister who was also named in the Panama Papers as having held a stake in a Seychelles-based investment company.

Iceland is a wind-lashed volcanic island near the Arctic Circle with a population of 320,000. The country suffered through years of economic upheaval after its debt-swollen banks collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis but now is experiencing a tremendous surge in tourism by those eager to see its pristine glaciers, fjords and waterfalls and the Northern Lights.

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