Some strong words are being exchanged between President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir over proposed ethical guidelines for the presidential office.
The disagreement is not a new one. In 2010, the Prime Minister cited the findings of the Special Investigative Commission (SIC) for the need for presidential ethical guidelines. The SIC report said, among other things, that it believed the president went out of his way to tout Icelandic venture capitalists as being sound and solvent businessmen, painting a cosmetically enhanced portrait of economic conditions within the country for the rest of the world, and using his office to personally help some of these businessmen start up financial projects in Europe and beyond.
The president dismissed the need for any ethical guidelines at the time, and it has now come to light that he responded rather pointedly to the idea in a letter he sent the prime minister’s office in July 2010.
Among other things, the president said that the prime minister has no right to tell a democratically-elected president how he should behave, that the SIC report granted no such right to the prime minister’s office, and that political leaders have been over-extending their power.
The prime minister responded that her office was not trying to tell the president how to do his job, but rather was only asking for his opinion of the concept of ethical guidelines for the president. She added that public officials should be able to have a dialogue with the president.