Meet All The Candidates (Except One)! - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Meet All The Candidates (Except One)!

Meet All The Candidates (Except One)!

Published June 18, 2016

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Various

We at the Grapevine believe strongly in the idea of the well-informed voter. To that end, we asked every candidate running for President of Iceland the same eight questions (with one exception), and every one of them responded, again with one exception.

The one difference in our eight questions was this: all of our male candidates were asked how they anticipate balancing family and work, while all of our female candidates were asked about Iceland and the EU instead. As female politicians are often asked to justify seeking a career when they have children, we thought it would be fun to switch it up a little.

The only candidate who did not answer our questions, despite our being asked by their campaign manager to send along questions, and despite our repeated requests for a response, was Davíð Oddsson. We don’t know why he wouldn’t answer (although we can guess it’s because we’ve been pretty critical of him over the years, such speculations would be irresponsible).

In any event, readers, meet your candidates! Simply click on the candidate’s name to read the interview, or just keep scrolling to read them all.

Elísabet Jökulsdóttir, author and poet

Halla Tómasdóttir, entrepreneur and lecturer

Guðrún Margrét Pálsdóttir, nurse, co-founder of children’s charity ABC Barnahjálp

Sturla Jónsson, professional truck driver

Hildur Þórðardóttir, ethnologist

Ástþór Magnússon, entrepreneur and peace activist

Andri Snær Magnason, author

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, historian


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Elísabet Jökulsdóttir, author and poet

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Does Iceland even need the office of the presidency?
I’m not sure. Having a president is an old symbol of a king, or a god. I think there are many gods. So having one man to rule is not a model that the modern world really needs. There are many kinds of people running right now, and people don’t know if we should have a political president or just some kind of figurehead. So I suggested we should have 18 women—because there were 18 women who were drowned at Þingvellir [in medieval times]—acting as presidents. Because we see men everywhere. They run everything, and have done so for a thousand years. It’s not good for the future. At least, we could try a matriarchal council for four years, and then ask ourselves if it was worth it.

Is Iceland better served by working more closely with the EU, possibly even joining the EU, or are we better off moving away from Schengen?
In recent years, I have wanted Iceland to get closer to the EU. But since the war on Syria, and when the war came walking to us, although Sweden and Germany have shown generosity towards refugees, the treatment refugees are facing in camps in Greece and Macedonia are absolutely terrible, and we do nothing. These are our brothers and sisters. I think this is a big test for the European Union, which it has so far failed.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
Yes. I support the new constitution in general.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
Well, I see myself as a poet, and my role is to bring poetry to people. I think if people had more poetry in their lives, their lives would be more fulfilling, and more real, actually. I think Icelandic people have a strong sense of poetry. I recently learned that in fact the President of Parliament can sign laws to make them official. We don’t need the President of Iceland for something Parliament can do on its own.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
I think climate change is the result of both natural and human-caused influences, but it’s ridiculous how we’ve treated the earth. We are so greedy.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
Yes, I think so. My grandfather was a priest, and I love churches. There are also a lot of young priests who are telling us some good things. But I think religion has contributed to global warming; as the Bible says Man rules over all the animals of the world. But I think instead that animals should have constitutionally protected rights. This reflects much older values, from heathen times, when we still recognised that all life is interconnected.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
Poetry, dance, and children. I would also like to have cows at Bessastaðir, like there used to be. Children could come out to Bessastaðir to take care of the cows, and be closer to nature. There are a lot of troubled teens in Iceland, and I think they would benefit from being in contact with life.
[Back to candidate list]


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Halla Tómasdóttir, financier

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Yes, Iceland needs forward-looking leadership. I see the primary role of the President to be a leader for the future. A leader that helps the nation form its vision for the future and live according to our values.

Is Iceland better served by working more closely with the EU, possibly even joining the EU, or are we better off moving away from Schengen?
I believe the people of Iceland should be allowed to vote on this issue.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
Yes, I would support an amendment for a term limit of two or three terms.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
Yes.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
I see myself as a forward-looking president, interested in creating and forwarding a dialogue on issues of long-term concern to Icelanders (and the world). Of primary concern are equality, education and entrepreneurship.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
Yes.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
I believe this issue should be discussed and voted upon by the Icelandic people.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
International experience (studied, worked and lived in US/UK and Nordics). Proven track record as a change catalyst in education, equality and entrepreneurship. A husband who is a chef.
[Back to candidate list]


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Guðrún Margrét Pálsdóttir, nurse, co-founder of children’s charity ABC Barnahjálp

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe Iceland needs the office of the presidency. I see the President as a part of the image of Iceland, a voice among the nations, a leader of the nation, someone who cares about the nation, standing guard and uniting the nation.

Is Iceland better served by working more closely with the EU, possibly even joining the EU, or are we better off moving away from Schengen?
I don’t think Iceland should join the EU but of course we should have good co-operation with our neighboring countries. I would consider it a possibility to move away from Schengen.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
Yes, I think it is better to have set term limits.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
I support certain changes to our constitution which are being led by Stjórnarskrárnefnd appointed by Althingi, that has taken into consideration the former reviewing and rewriting of the constitution by Stjórnlagaráð, the advisory elections concerning a new constitution and trends in the neighboring countries. I think it is better to carefully review the constitution step by step rather than throwing the existing one out.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
I would see myself as somewhere in the middle of those two. A president needs to be political to some extent, but preferably as little as possible. He needs at least to insure that Iceland has a functioning government and is able to step in if there is a crisis in the government that cannot be solved within the government itself. He also needs to be security for the nation, someone that can be trusted not to sign a law from the parliament that will harm the nation or country in an irreversible way. Rather than a figurehead, I would see the president as a leader that unites and leads the nation by a good example and who encourages good actions to help those in need, both in Iceland and to bless other nations.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
Yes, I believe in human-caused climate change and I believe that we as a nation need to take responsibility for it and take steps to diminish it as hopefully other nations do as well. I believe these changes are one of the biggest threats to the human race if we do not take action. I have been advocating that we can do our share by planting trees on a greater scale in our country.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
No, I would like to keep the status quo as it is. It is written in our constitution that if changes are to be made regarding the state and the church, that decision must come from Althingi, and the nation will vote on the matter. It is not a decision of the President whether a separation will take place or not. According to the constitution, the government should protect and support the church and I see that as the role of the President.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
First: I would bring the emphasis on increasing tree planting in Iceland in order to do our part to slow down the climate change and to give back to the country what we owe it. Iceland had forests from shores to mountains when the settlement took place.
Second: I want to establish one week a year where the nation would be united in fundraising and charity. I want to establish a large charity fund where I would provide a good example by donating half of my salary as a president, encouraging others that are financially well off to do the same. We could then empower charities in Iceland to help those in need, both in Iceland and in other countries.
Third: I want to nurture and protect the roots of the nation, such as the Icelandic language, the Christian inheritance, the culture, history and values. I want to encourage people to pray for the nation, especially for the youth which is struggling with anxiety, depression and addiction in growing numbers.
[Back to candidate list]


sturla
Sturla Jónsson, professional truck driver

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Yes, we need a president, because I would defend the values that I have had from the beginning, and stand up for the oppressed and the privacy of people in our society. I would help get people jobs and defend job creation in an increasingly open society. Not least of all, I would defend the laws of the constitution, and that public officials operate in accordance with the law.

Do you ever get anxious about the prospect of having to balance your family life with the demands of the office?
No, I don’t worry about that. I am happily married and in a good family where everyone helps each other out. My sons are fully grown, so I think I have enough energy and time to do my duties as President.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
No, but if I received a petition of 25,000 voting-eligible Icelanders, I would refer the constitutional draft to public referendum, as I would with any large issue concerning the public interest.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
I see both pros and cons with the constitutional draft. But I cannot support it due to a provision about national sovereignty, which I consider to be a huge and serious issue.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
If I am elected president, I would without reservation either approve or reject a law based on a petition brought to me on the matter that had at least 25,000 signatures. That’s the kind of president I intend to be. I would serve the office of the highest public official of the nation in accordance with those laws and regulations that concern the President of Iceland in the constitution.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
In light of scientific research, it’s difficult to say yes or no.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
Yes, with the caveat that I would grant some exceptions, such as for older churches that are historically preserved. But cuts certainly need to be made, as the budget allocation [to the church] is considerable; something like six billion ISK a year while the healthcare system is greatly lacking.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
Abide the word of the constitution, I would appoint ministers to be outside of Parliament [government ministers are also voting members of Parliament – ed.], and if I received 25,000 signatures from voting-eligible Icelanders, I would refer the constitutional draft to public referendum, as I would with all large issues that concern the public interest.
[Back to candidate list]


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Hildur Þórðardóttir, ethnologist

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely. The President unites the nation in good times and in difficult times. She is the link between parliament and the people, especially when there is a breach of trust between them. The president frequently visits all kinds of communities, workplaces and rehabilitation centres and thereby draw attention to all the positive things happening in our society, and can thus inspire people to continue doing good things. The President, in my opinion, is an important advocate for peace in the world, since we are one of the few nations that don’t have armed forces and we are not a part of the arms industry. And finally, the President is the only office elected directly by the people.

Is Iceland better served by working more closely with the EU, possibly even joining the EU, or are we better off moving away from Schengen?
I think Schengen has served us very well, with the coordinated efforts in catching drug smugglers and illegal trafficking. I am in favour of continuing those efforts. As for EU, I don‘t want to take sides, but if we decide to join, I think it is absolutely vital that we have our natural resources owned by the people/state so that it cannot be sold to foreign companies, like happened in Greece.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
I support term limits for the presidency. However I don’t believe in mending the old constitution anymore. In the new one, we have the article of a maximum three terms and I support that.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
Yes, very much. I support the new constitution created by the Constitutional Council as a whole. I don’t believe in amending the old one anymore. We need a new one, for the new Iceland that we want to build, with an active democracy, more power to the people, a factual division between the legislative and executive power and vertical power structure. The new constitution reduces the power of the political parties so members of Parliament can hopefully act on their own conscience, instead of always acting on the best interest of the party.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
I see myself as politically active, but not for any particular political party, rather for wanting to improve society and democracy in general. In my opinion, the president has to advocate for the new constitution, for instance, because if against it, he can sow seeds of doubt in society.
I would like us to create platforms for discussions on different topics, nature, the educational system, the healthcare system etc. I am also in favour of hearing all views and opinions and then deciding what is best. Silencing certain opinions or views by condemning all that dare to raise the subject is harmful for society and keeps us in the dark.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
I think it is vital that we start respecting the Earth more greatly. We need to reduce carbon dioxide emission and find and encourage other energy sources. We also need to minimize degradation of peatlands through drainage and fire, not only because of gas emission but even more because of the impact on biodiversity and local people of this degradation. Humans definitely show too little respect for the Earth and need to grow out of it. If the imminent global warming serves as the driving force for change, I support it fully.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
I do not want to take sides on this issue. Being a folklorist I realize that we need traditions to maintain our roots in society. But I would like to see the church developing towards a more inclusive and broad-minded establishment and changing with the times.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
I stand for a new Iceland, with a new way of thinking and new ways of doing things. The old way is two-sided, either you are right or wrong, with us or against us, either you win or lose. The new way of thinking is hearing all views and opinions and then you decide for yourself what is right for you. It is not the end of the world if people do not agree with you and you don’t need to be right all the time.
It means people working together to find solutions for the whole. So, instead of the constant struggle like we have in Parliament now, with the majority and minority competing against each other, all members of Parliament will work together, as individuals, for the good of the whole nation. The Constitutional Council in 2011 proved it can be done.
Apart from that I love being with all kinds of people, I think everyone is equally important and precious. I have courage to go against the stream, a vision that transcends the system and a passion for improving our society.
[Back to candidate list]


astthor_2
Ástþór Magnússon, entrepreneur and peace activist

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Iceland has never had any military of its own or armaments industry. The Icelandic parliament Althing is the oldest working democratic assembly in the world. At a meeting at the Althing in the year 1000 a civil war was averted in Iceland by reaching a consensus on religious tolerance. Iceland should build on this heritage and become a world peace state with the President of Iceland an advocate of world peace. How the Icelanders adverted a civil war over religious issues is an important message at this time when the world is facing challenges regarding how to resolve peacefully clashes of religious and cultural differences. Thirty years ago at the Reykjavík summit leaders of the USA and Soviet Union met and this was an important step to end the Cold War. We need another Reykjavík summit now that there is increased military buildup to find a peaceful way forward for Europe and the world. The President of Iceland could lead such an initiative.

Do you ever get anxious about the prospect of having to balance your family life with the demands of the office?
No.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
Yes.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
Most important is that we respect the constitution and that law and society operate fully within its framework. Certain parts of the constitution may need to be updated.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
The Icelandic President should stay alert to protect the citizens from the abuse of political power. If a law is being passed that goes against the constitution or the interest of the general public the President should be ready to bring such law to the attention of people to have their say in a national referendum.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
Yes, we have to be alert to respect the boundaries of nature.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
Yes, the Icelandic church is strong and does not need to be a part of the government structure.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
I am completely independent of any political connections and as such will operate only with the interest of the general public at heart.
I would work towards making Iceland a peace state, and build up a new industry in Iceland for promoting peace, human rights and protecting our environment. I would want Iceland to become the home of the UN peacekeeping operations, the Security Council and the General Assembly. The UN needs a more neutral meeting place. Iceland is perfect.
I would convene and promote peace meetings at Harpa in Reykjavík and try to resolve the issues in Ukraine, the issues rising between NATO and Russia and issues in the Middle East. It is essential we resolve these issues. It is worrying how much talk there is about a war breaking out and we need to put the dialogue into a more peaceful direction. The Reykjavík summit 30 years ago marked the end of the Cold War, I want a series of meetings now to stop all talk and actions towards a new war.
[Back to candidate list]


Andri Snær - Iceland Airwaves 2014 Portrait
Andri Snær Magnason, author

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
Well—the president can deny laws and call for a national referendum—so he has a role, he can raise important issues—work on a broad level within Iceland and abroad. A creative person can do interesting and important things in this office.

Do you ever get anxious about the prospect of having to balance your family life with the demands of the office?
I am always balancing my family life with my old job.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
Yes indeed.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
I really think that the initiative of writing the new constitution was a great project that should be finished and cherished. We have the opportunity to shine—so why not shine?

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
I would not be political in the way that I would go against the government, political still in the way of taking part in creating the larger picture, work with our identity, talk about environmental issues on the large scale. Connect people, but issues on the agenda, stand firmly on human rights, women’s rights and other issues that need progress.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
Why is this question still being asked? Why not ask if the earth is flat?

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
We should vote on this. The state church is not a special worry. It is one of the most liberal churches in the world.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
I would have environmental issues on the agenda, the new constitution and literacy.
[Back to candidate list]


GTbyHakonBroder Lund
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, historian

Does Iceland even need the Office of the Presidency? Why or why not?
The President of Iceland is the country’s head of state. We always need someone to fulfill that role. True, the president of the Althing could do that but Icelanders still seem to think that we need someone outside the political field to act as head of state. Furthermore, the president can play an important part in the political process, for instance in the formation of governments, which can be a complicated task in Iceland. Finally, the president can and should act as a symbol of unity, encouraging us to realize what makes us a nation, what ties us together, and how we can and should improve our society.

Do you ever get anxious about the prospect of having to balance your family life with the demands of the office?
No. Conversely, I am convinced that if I am elected we Icelanders would should the world that we have created a strong, family-friendly society here where everyone is able to do well in the workplace but at the same time be able to spend sufficient time with children and family.

Do you support a new constitutional ammendment that would establish term limits for the presidency?
I am not against that. I think no president should be at Bessastaðir for more than three terms.

Do you support a new Constitution for Iceland in the general sense?
The people of Iceland decide, not the President. If the voters want a new constitution, they vote for those who favour that move in parliamentary elections. The Althing can change the constitution, not the President. Having said that, I am in favour of certain changes to the constitution, in particular provisions on direct democracy, environmental protection and national custody of natural resources. Furthermore, as a historian I have probably written more than others on the obvious fact that those who wrote the constitution of Iceland in the early 1940s felt that it should be fundamentally revised as soon as possible.

Would you see yourself as a sort of “figurehead” kind of president, or would you see yourself as a politically active one? If politically active, in what ways would you engage politically? If a figurehead, what are your reasons for that choice?
The president stand outside and above all political groups and parties. In that sense, he or she should be nonpolitical. I would be active in the political field if needed, however, for instance in the process of forming governments and refusing to sign laws, thus allowing the voters to have the final word in a referendum. I would also use the indirect influence and powers of the presidency to ensure that on various political issues all opinions and voices will be heard.

Do you believe in human-caused climate change?
Yes. I believe the experts and scientific proof.

Do you support separation of church and state, as 71% of Icelanders said they do in the last opinion poll taken on this topic?
This is something for the voters and Parliament to decide. As for myself, I am not a member of the state church in Iceland, and as President I would neither work against or for the separation of church and state.

Name three things you would bring to the presidency that none of the other candidates would.
Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. In my campaign I have focused on my message and my vision of the office. As a historian I would bring to the presidency a strong knowledge of the office and its history. As someone who has never taken part in party politics, I would bring a sense of objectivity and fairness in the political field. And since my wife Eliza is from Canada, I would bring a strong understanding of the challenges and difficulties which foreign-born persons face when they move to Iceland and are determined to make their way and contribute to society here.
[Back to candidate list]

Photo credits (in order of appearance): Art Bicnick, Paul Fontaine, Halla Tómasdóttir, Guðrún Margrét Pálsdóttir, Sturla’s YouTube channel, RÚV, Ástþór Magnússon, Matthew Eisman, Hakon Broder Lund

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