Ólafur Ragnar's 18 Years "May Seem Strange To Western Readers" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ólafur Ragnar’s 18 Years “May Seem Strange To Western Readers”

Published November 5, 2014

Washington Post journalist gathers list of "leaders who won't stop leading"

Washington Post journalist gathers list of "leaders who won't stop leading"

Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, counts among “the leaders who won’t stop leading”, according to the Washington Post’s journalist Adam Taylor.

Ólafur Ragnar’s 18 years in office securely exceed Vladimir Putin’s 15 years, which include Putin’s break from presidency, while serving as Prime Minister.

On occasion of last week’s protests in Burkina Faso, demanding that president Blais Compaoré, in power since 1987, would not further extend his term in office, the Post’s journalist gathered a list of the world’s “longest-entrenched” heads of state. At the top of the list resides Cameroon, whose Paul Biya has been in power for over 14 thousand days. Equatorial Guinea’s, Angola’s, Zimbabwe’s and Iran’s leaders have all served for over 12 thousand days or 30 years. Iceland currently ranks 18th on the list.

Leaders who won't stop leading

Taylor notes that “African leaders, many with autocratic (or semi-autocratic) tendencies, are well represented, especially those from oil-rich areas of central and southern Africa.” The journalist mentions Iceland as an “unusual case … a lone social democracy on the list”.

“It may seem strange for Western readers,” he writes, “who tend to live in countries with strict term limits (such as the United States) or entrenched party politics that make it difficult for any one politician to hold onto power (the United Kingdom). But around the world, there are many leaders who have clung to power for decades.”

The blog post’s final paragraph reads: “All in all, it’s not a pretty picture, and the list only shows part of it: Charting the longest-serving leaders fails to show the entrenched elites and political dynasties that can often form behind these personalities. … If Burkina Faso is a reminder of anything, however, it is that change will always come eventually.”

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