Published June 15, 2012
Iceland’s presidential race has certainly been interesting to follow over the last five months. Only days after incumbent President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson delivered his New Year’s Address, insinuating that he would not seek reelection, Iceland was abuzz with talk about who should take over after his sixteen-year reign.
Two comedians, Davíð Oddsson and Jón Gnarr, for instance, were amongst those repeatedly named in a poll conducted by Vísir in early January.
The race has arguably gotten more serious since then. Ólafur decided, at the urging of 30,000 people, to run for a fifth term, which would make him the longest serving Icelandic president if elected.
However, for the first time, an incumbent president is facing some real competition. Namely, television personality Þóra Arnórsdóttir has been neck and neck with Ólafur in poll after poll, and it looks like this will be also be the closest presidential election in the history of The Republic.
It should be noted that Iceland is a parliamentary democracy in which the president has traditionally served as a figurehead. However, the president has certain powers defined in the Constitution, such as the right to refuse to sign a parliamentary bill into law and refer it to a referendum for approval or rejection.
Ólafur is the first president to exercise this power, using it not once, but three times, and in many ways, the presidential debates have centred on whether or not a president should be so powerful. Þóra, for instance, sees this power as an emergency measure.
But enough about Ólafur and Þóra. There are in fact six candidates, including Andrea Ólafsdóttir, Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, Hannes Bjarnason, and Herdís Þorgeirsdóttir, and they all have interesting thoughts on the matter, and you could argue that they haven’t been given an equal opportunity to express those thoughts.
So we interviewed all six candidates and, with the exception of one of them who dropped out last minute, they all feature on our covers. Yes, you are holding one of five versions of this paper.
Each candidate has posed much like Ólafur posed shortly after winning the 1996 election, so you can now envision each and every one of them as a president. More importantly, of course, read what they (minus one who perhaps couldn’t find an appropriate dress for the occasion) have to say, inside.