Former Prime Minister of Iceland and chairperson for the Progressive Party Halldór Ásgrímsson passed away yesterday following a cardiac arrest last Friday.
MBL reports that Halldór was struck by a massive coronary at his summer house in Grímsnes, and was subsequently rushed to the National Hospital in Reykjavík. He passed away last night, survived by his wife Sigurjóna Sigurðardóttir, three adult daughters, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was 67 years old.
Halldór was born in Vopnafjörður, in northeast Iceland, in 1947. He first entered parliament for the Progressive Party in 1974 until 1978, returning again in 1979 until his retirement from politics in 2006. During this time, he rose through the ranks of the Progressive Party, becoming vice-chairperson from 1980 to 1994, at which time he became the party’s chairperson until he left parliament. He held numerous government ministry positions during this time, most notably Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995 – 2004) and Prime Minister (2004 – 2006), exchanging places with then-Independence Party chairperson Davíð Oddsson, who held the Foreign Ministry position during this time. After retiring from politics, Halldór was the managing director of the Nordic Council of Ministers from 2007 to 2013.
Halldór’s political legacy was not without controversy. His popularity within his own party led to divisiveness between party members – namely, between those loyal to him and those critical. Extensive investigative reporting conducted by journalist Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir in 2005 brought forth damning evidence that Halldór and Davíð had, in 2003, colluded to sell the then-privatising banks Landsbanki and Búnaðarbanki to people close to their respective parties, with both men denying any wrongdoing. Halldór was also Foreign Minister at the time Iceland joined the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” supporting the invasion of Iraq, without putting the matter to a vote in parliament first. This led to numerous public protests, but to no avail.
“Halldór is memorable to me from my first term in office,” Social Democrat MP Katrín Júlíusdóttir posted on Facebook, joining a chorus of numerous MPs who have bid him farewell. “He greeted me quite warmly, a young MP who was born the first year he took a seat in parliament. We shared good times together, and I will always think of him warmly. My sincere sympathies to his friends and family.”