Iceland’s President announcing he is running for a sixth term has been not entirely well received.
Yesterday, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced that he will once again run for the office, having already served 20 years as head of state. The President cited the “thousands who have protested” in front of parliament, as well as the coming early elections, saying that “untold numbers” of people have encouraged him to run again. While he said he understands the sentiment that someone new take the office, Ólafur said the country needs someone with “experience” to lead the country “in this time of instability.”
This is very similar to the justification he gave for running again in 2012, and there has been a decidedly mixed response to yesterday’s announcement.
Prime Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, himself only trusted by about 5% of the country, gave his endorsement for Ólafur. Which is not necessarily a good thing, as historian Guðni Th. Jóhannesson pointed out to Vísir that presidential candidates endorsed by the sitting Prime Minister lose.
Þorsteinn Pálsson, himself a former Prime Minister hailing from the Independence Party, was not entirely happy with Ólafur running again, telling RÚV that he found Ólafur’s contentions on why he must run again “too outrageous for him to believe them himself.”
If Ólafur coming forward has intimidated the other people running for President, they have yet to show it, as nearly all of them say they will continue to stay in the race.
A petition calling upon Ólafur to quit has reached about 3,000 signatures at the time of this writing, and those who have left comments on the petition predominantly accuse him of defending the interests of the wealthy in Iceland.
While the President told Monocle magazine in 2014 that he will not run this year, and repeated this sentiment during his New Year’s address, this would not be the first time he changed his mind on the subject. The President said four years ago that he might not even finish his current term, but decide instead to turn to other matters before his four years are up – something he has said once again.
Additionally, the president insinuated in January 2012 that he probably would not run for the current term he is now serving. He said at the time that, in choosing not to run, he would have “freedom to express my ideas and see to issues that are dear to me, and can also take part in the development of economics, science, research and job creation.”
However, the president did enjoy high levels of popular support, and told reporters in March 2012 that a petition of 30,000 signatures calling for him to run again changed his mind. That is similar to the case today as well – a new poll from Market and Media Research shows he is the second most trusted political leader in Iceland, second only to Left-Green chairperson Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
The President’s announcement also comes just days after author Andri Snær Magnússon announced he is running for President, and there has been much open speculation that Andri Snær would have a good chance of winning the office.
Presidential elections will be held this coming June 25. If the President wins, Iceland will move up the list of countries with the longest-serving heads of state, and the country currently sits at 17th place.