Iceland's First Woman PM Releases Biography - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s First Woman PM Releases Biography

Published November 16, 2017

Photos by
Magnus Fröderberg

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who rose to international fame as Iceland’s first woman Prime Minister, has released a tell-all biography about her stormy tenure.

The biography, ‘Minn tími’ (My Time), covers one of the most contentious periods in Icelandic history; from the financial crash of autumn 2008, through protests and emergency elections the following year, and the difficult recovery period that followed leading Iceland’s first left wing government, Vísir reports.

One portion of the book that Fréttablaðið released today details the difficulties Jóhanna had with Davíð Oddsson, the former Independence Party chair who was in 2009 one of the chairs of the Central Bank.

Jóhanna and Davíð had long been political opponents, but the decision taken to dismiss the three Central Bank chairs and replace them with a single chairperson proved to be especially contentious. Jóhanna recounts that she considered these dismissals to be necessary to restore trust in the Icelandic banking system, as difficult as the decision was to take. The other two chairs, Ingimundur Friðriksson and Eiríkur Guðnason, readily accepted her request to resign from their posts. Davíð, however, refused.

Davíð in fact took the request so hard that he responded with a long, detailed letter arguing that he was a “university-educated lawyer, with comprehensive experience in economic management”. Jóhanna was reportedly “disappointed” by this response, and soon thereafter received a phone call from Davíð out of the blue.

“I sometimes had to hold the phone away from my ear, as upset as he was,” Jóhanna recalled. “The core of the issue was really one sentence: ‘You don’t treat me like this.'”

Jóhanna stood her ground, and eventually Davíð would leave his position at the Central Bank. In the autumn of 2009, though, Davíð became co-editor of the newspaper Morgunblaðið, and went on the offensive against her government.

Ultimately, her government – a coalition comprised of the Social Democrats, which she chaired, and the Left-Greens – would last just one term. She bid politics adieu with style in 2013.

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