For & Against: The Presidency - The Reykjavik Grapevine

For & Against: The Presidency

For & Against: The Presidency

Published June 18, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

FOR:
Icelanders may disagree with one another on any number of highly charged political issues, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we love having a single leader we can pin all of our hopes on, and blame when those hopes fail to materialise. It is the cornerstone of our society.

Despite this natural fact, every four years we have to go through the same song and dance all over again about whether or not we need to have a President, given the fact that we have a Prime Minister. This is like asking why we need a CFO if we already have a CEO. No successful company thrives without a well-insulated and well-paid cadre at the top of the pyramid. And as in business, so in democracy.

Besides which, the Prime Minister is the least qualified person for doing what the President spends most of their time doing: greeting foreign dignitaries and giving free-stylin’ interviews to the international press. Being a PM is a hard, exhausting job. Imagine a frazzled, overworked PM—their clothes clearly slept in, their teeth unbrushed, sporting a bad case of bedhead—greeting the Queen of Denmark. Iceland would be a laughingstock.

All the other big, important countries have presidents. That should be reason enough for us to have one, too.

AGAINST:
It’s hard to think of a public office as useless as the President. When people call Iceland “the land of little kings,” this is exactly what they’re talking about. Everyone wants to be in charge of something, no matter how inconsequential the position may be. And as long as we’re going to abide this mentality, why not get rid of the presidency, and replace it with a hereditary monarchy?

Hear me out here. What is the single worst part of the presidency, apart from that giant gilded necklace they wear in their official portraits? The campaigning, of course. Every four years, we have to endure the tiresome spectacle of a bunch of people, many of whom you only see in the news during presidential election season, pretending to be all regal and elder-statesmanlike while simultaneously taking cheap shots at their opponents.

Let’s just trim the fat. I propose that whomever we elect on June 25, that person will be President for Life. Our last one practically was anyway, so why not make it official? When this elected President passes on, their oldest child will then inherit the position. If they have no children, then… I dunno, a jousting contest or something.

Apart from the entertainment potential of some ‘Game of Thrones’-level danger and intrigue at Bessastaðir, we would for once be being honest about why we have a President and what they’re for: a figurehead, comparable to the star on top of the Christmas tree. Only with the added benefit that royals never have to run for office.

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