Wednesday, 20 April 2016

President of Iceland to stand for sixth term

At a press conference on Monday, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland announced that he will after all stand for a sixth term in the presidential election to be held on 25 June. In his New Year's Speech, the President announced that he would retire at the end of his fifth term, but the uncertainty caused by the developments of the last weeks has made him reconsider. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was felled by the Panama Papers revelations and parliamentary elections will now be held in the autumn of this year rather than next year as previously planned. In this situation, a wish for the experienced president to continue grew into a "wave of pressure". As the formation of a new government may prove difficult, the President wants to ensure that the country is not without leadership, he said.
The office of President of Iceland is largely ceremonial, but unlike his predecessors, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who has led Iceland through difficult times, has repeatedly used the powers vested in the President. In 2010, he vetoed the so-called Icesave deal whereby the government had agreed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for the financial losses suffered by citizens of those countries when the Icelandic banks collapsed. The President's veto led to a referendum being held, in which the majority endorsed his veto. In February the following year, he vetoed another similar deal, a veto which was again supported by the people in the referendum that followed. Recently he also refused the scandalised Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson's request for a dissolution of Parliament.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth President of Iceland since the country abolished the monarchy in 1944 and is already the longest-serving. For decades, no incumbent president was challenged for re-election, but in 1988, President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was challenged when she stood for a third time. Having won a resounding victory, she served until 1996, when she decided to stand down and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson won the election to succeed her. He was challenged when he stood for re-election in 2000, but was unopposed in 2004 and then again challenged in 2008. In 2012, he announced he would not stand for re-election, but changed his mind after being petitioned by 30,000 citizens and was eventually elected with 52.78 % of the vote against 33.16 % for his closest opponent. This year he seems likely to face at least ten contenders who have already announced their candidacies.
Postscript: A few weeks later, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson again changed his mind and announced that he would after all not stand for a sixth term. This decision came after it was revealed that his wife Dorrit Mousaieff and her family were mentioned in the Panama papers. A spokesperson for the President said that the couple live completely independent lives and that he had no knowledge of her or her family's financial affairs.

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