From Iceland — Presidential Candidates: Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Presidential Candidates: Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Published May 9, 2024

Presidential Candidates: Katrín Jakobsdóttir
Photo by
Art Bicnick for The Reykjavík Grapevine

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. 

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Please provide your name, age and current occupation. 

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, 48 years old. Presidential candidate. 

Why do you want to be president? 

I strive to work towards the improvement of Icelandic society and I believe that with my experience and knowledge I could do that as the President of Iceland.

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

I believe my experience, both from my political leadership positions and within Icelandic culture, would be useful in serving the nation at Bessastaðir. 

My experience of bringing together disparate groups towards common goals and dealing with difficult challenges while serving the nation will help me work towards acting as a unifying force for the nation. My experience and relations on the international level will allow me to be successful in increasing Iceland’s influence, honour and respect in the society of nations. Moreover, my roots lie in Icelandic culture and language, which are important attributes for the President of Iceland to have.

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

The role of the President of Iceland is first and foremost being the nation’s representative, promoting that every citizen of the country experiences themself as part of the nation. He needs to be a unifying force, confident in speaking to the whole nation and on its behalf. These are times of great change and we are facing new challenges which can test our cohesion. Under these circumstance, the role of the President is to build build bridges between different opinions, working against polarisation to protect the foundational values which Icelandic society is based on; democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Iceland’s size on the international level is not measured in population or hectares but the influence we exert. 

It is the President’s role to grow Iceland’s influence, honour and respect in the society of nations. The President needs to make sure that Iceland’s influence reaches far and wide as well as demonstrating initiative in protecting the nation’s interests. That is how we utilise the diverse opportunities we have in different fields. 

Icelandic society is based on ancient roots at the same time being under constant change. The country’s culture and history provides citizens with important resonance and strength in terms of innovation and thought. That is why access to culture is imperative for all citizens. The President should elevate the country’s history, nature and culture, while at the same time protect the idea that every citizen has a stake in culture and the national cohesion. 

The President of Iceland should be a vigorous herald of Icelandic culture around the world, and represent culture, sports, language, science, and ingenuity at home and abroad. Last but not least, the President is the nation’s representative towards parliament and government. He is to ensure that the country has an operational government and political stability where the base values of our society, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, reign supreme. 

The President has the right to appeal, the power to refer legislation to the nation when he deems appropriate, when it goes against these foundational values, or when such a gap forms between parliament and people that it is necessary to call the nation to the table. That is why it is important that the President understands the dynamics of society and politics. The President needs to be able to make difficult decisions impartially, be of sound judgment, and be brave to protect the interests of the nation.

What is not the role of the president? 

The President is the nation’s representative and that is why he should not serve limited interests or viewpoints but rather be a unifying force to protect the national whole. The President of Iceland should not interfere with the activities of government or Alþingi unless a situation arises where they go against the republic’s foundational values or a deep gap forms between the nation. 

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

I would purposefully work towards increasing the cohesion within society and work against the polarisation which has started to form. The strength of Icelandic society lies in the fact that all of us can be different individuals, with different opinions, values and life experience, while belonging to the same national unity. 

Our history as a nation demonstrates that we do best when rowing in the same direction, all with our own methods, regardless of where we come from. We are facing new challenges that test our cohesion. The president should be a unifying force which promotes cohesion in favour of the society, including diversity so that the things which separate us can enjoy themselves.  

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

I’ve said that eight to twelve years, two to three terms that is, is an appropriate time for a president. 

What are your views on the Presidential veto powers? 

The right to appeal is a power given to the President and that power should be treated with caution and humility. A President needs to have sound judgment, insight and bravery to use it when he deems it so that Alþingi has gone against the foundational values of society, or if such a gap forms between parliament and people that it is deemed necessary to call the nation to the table. 

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

The right to appeal is a power given to the President and that power should be treated with caution and humility. A President needs to have sound judgment, insight and bravery to use it when he deems it so that Alþingi has gone against the foundational values of society, or if such a gap forms between parliament and people that it is deemed necessary to call the nation to the table. 

What are your thoughts on constitutional reform? 

I think that changes to the constitution are long overdue and in the past 10, 15 years — a lot of work and deliberation has been put into its revision. Unfortunately, Alþingi has not had the opportunity to acquire a wide consensus, but I put forward a bill of change in the last term which was not passed. Regardless, I believe all the previous work will lend itself to reforms and I will speak for such reforms if I become president. 

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

I have considerable experience of interactions with other heads of state and have formed good relations with them. I will use this to increase Iceland’s influence and protect its interests. I will also work towards increasing the recognition of our base values, human rights and democracy at the international level and that they are respected. Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that the President uses its relations with other heads of state to increase the prestige of Icelandic culture, language, sports, and science.

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

My husband Gunnar has always stood behind me in all my work. Would I be elected President, he will continue to do so while assuming new roles which the nature of the office calls upon. 

Which former president would you aspire to emulate and why? 

I believe Icelanders have been successful in choosing their presidents and I am inspired by every president I’ve witnessed in my life, that is Vigdís, Ólafur Ragnar, and Guðni

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



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