From Iceland — Presidential Candidates: Helga Þórisdóttir

Presidential Candidates: Helga Þórisdóttir

Published May 9, 2024

Presidential Candidates: Helga Þórisdóttir

In light of the upcoming Icelandic presidential elections, we reached out to all candidates for answers to our pressing questions. Here is what one of them said. 

Helga Þórisdóttir

Please provide your name, age and current occupation.

Helga Þórisdóttir, 55 years old. Head of Persónuvernd (on a leave of absence)

Why do you want to be president?  

I believe I could be a very good president. I am passionate about the interests of the Icelandic nation. I’ve worked as a public interest lawyer for 29 years, most recently as the head of Persónuvernd for approximately eight years. I speak English, French and Danish, and I have great experience of international cooperation. I have worked in an international environment and have organised international conventions and seminars around the world. Because of my experience and knowledge, I decided to step forward for the Icelandic nation and run to serve this important and respected office well for the Icelandic nation, both at home and abroad. 

Why should people vote for you for president rather than another candidate? 

In my work, I have demonstrated honesty, determination, and integrity. I am warm and objective, since I’ve never participated in politics. I have also shown that I am unafraid of making difficult decisions and standing behind the nation when necessary. In those instances, my experience is of good use. 

I am also of the opinion that the nation should be guaranteed a say when it comes to decision-making in the most important issues concerning it. This applies to our most important resources and human rights. If it is clear that parliament doesn’t reflect the nation’s will, as president I will intervene and allow the nation to decide by calling on a referendum.

What is the role of the president and how will you fulfil it? 

The president has a formal role in the country’s governance. He has the power to deny legislation as well as having political influence. The president also serves an important role in the promotion of Iceland abroad as well as working on diverse tasks for the community. He is the guardian of many organisations, including being perceived as the nation’s unifying symbol. The president needs to know his society and needs to be culturally literate. 

I will serve the presidency as the representative of the country, nation and Icelandic culture. As a lawyer, I am well accustomed to all the formalities the president should attend to. My experience of international cooperation, being linguistically skilled, and having lived abroad, would be of good use when receiving foreign guests visiting the head of state and during the president’s travels around the world. It has also proved useful in my work to care about people and be able to put myself in others’ shoes. These are features I believe a president needs to have in order to do his job and bring citizens together for a better society. I would also use the president’s voice to support the Icelandic language, a continuation of the country’s good education, and highlight the necessity of supporting foreigners who want to live here and care for the welfare of the elderly.

What is not the role of the president? 

The President should not get mixed into political discussions. He needs to comply to established laws. 

If elected, what would be your first order of business as president? 

I would request an assessment report — that is, where the Preisdent’s presence or participation is requested in upcoming thigngs. Furthermore, I would seek to ease my emphases onto the agenda — preserving Icelandic language….   

If elected, would you put a cap on how many terms you would foresee yourself serving? 

I believe it does no one good staying too long in power. I would think two to three four-year terms would be a sufficient estimate for a President. 

What are your views on the Presidential veto powers?  

As I mentioned previously, I am of the opinion of guaranteeing the nation a say when it comes to decision-making concerning the nation’s most important issues. The right to appeal is an active right which needs to be used if the situation arises. 

In what circumstances do you think is appropriate to use presidential veto powers? 

The nation should govern. If MPs pass laws concerning our most important resources (such as the fisheries and energy) or human rights, and if parliament’s decision does not reflect the will of the nation, as president I will intervene and allow the nation to decide by calling on a referendum. 

What are your thoughts on constitutional reform? 

The current constitution has served its role well and its foundational values have held. In addition, the renewal of the human rights chapter in 1995 was a good and necessary step. However, certain customs have formed in the execution of the constitution which would need to be better reflected in it. For example, it needs to be stated more clearly if the president does not uphold certain activities. 

If elected, how do you envision your interactions with other heads of state? 

Pleasant! It would be my pleasure to receive foreign heads of state and strengthen the cultural ties between countries. A nation does best among nations by meeting others and comparing each others’ experiences. Learning from each other and promoting more opportunities for Icelandic enterprise, culture and a blooming society.

If you have a spouse/partner, how active do they envision themselves during your time at Bessastaðir?  

My husband is Theodór Jóhannsson. He is a physotherapist and has worked as one for 30 years and is one of the owners of Sjúkraþjálfun Reykjavíkur og Garðabæjar. He supports me fully in my campaign for the President of Iceland and imagines participating fully as the president’s spouse. 

Which former president would you aspire to emulate and why? 

Every one of them did a good day’s job in my opinion and a lot can be learnt from all of them. Ideally, I would highlight the sophistication and grace which Vigdís Finnbogadóttir brought to the office of the president, as well as Kristján Eldjárn’s composure. 

This article includes the full responses of one presidential candidate. Click here to see what the other candidates said.

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