The President of Iceland Mr. Grímsson has turned the upcoming presidential election in to a bit of a farce

  • Bessastaðir, the residence of the President of Iceland
May 13 2016

Iceland is electing a new president. Finally, after President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has made up his mind and announced that he is not seeking a sixth term, the list of candidates is becoming clearer. At least a dozen candidates have officially announced their candidacy. The deadline to put a name on the ballot, with the requirement to have a list of at least 1,500 supporters, is May 21. The election is on June 25. Apparently, Mr. Grímsson has had some personal and psychological difficulties reaching his decision, making the time leading up to the presidential election a bit of a farce.

Is the president running or not running?

First, President Grímsson announced in his New Years Day speech that he was not going to run for president again in the upcoming 2016 election. With this decision, he was clearing the path for other candidates as many wannabes did not want to compete with a sitting president. After a social unrest in the beginning of April, following the revelation in the Panama papers that at least three Icelandic ministers were connected to offshore companies and the resignation of the prime minister, Grímsson announced that despite his statement on New Year's Day, he was now running for president one more term. He claimed that he was one of the very few people in Iceland capable of helping the nation through this period of anger and disappointment. The very determined Mr. Grímsson told Christiane Amanpour in a CNN interview following his "comeback" decision that he would bring stability in his 6th term and he, his wife, or any member of his family would not pop up in the Panama Papers. Ironically, only a few hours later, he learned that his wife was actually in the Panama Papers.  Questions were raised concerning her permanent residence and possible tax issues.  Despite his love for microphones and cameras, surprisingly, Mr. Grímsson rejected all interviews for days.  However, he finally came out with his old-style aggressive response to questions regarding sensitive issues and claimed that he and his millionaire wife, Dorrit Moussaieff, jewelry designer and businesswoman, never discuss financial matters. He didn't have a clue about anything related to their wealth, and they don't talk about money.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Grímsson, this transformed him from a self-claimed defender of the common man to a performer in the Panama Paper corruption farse. This was a very tight spot for Mr. Grímsson as he was forced to consider canceling his decision not to run for president.  As many Icelanders sensed, his honor and historical legacy were at stake.

His most hated enemy comes to the rescue

Fortunately for Mr. Grímsson, out of the blue and quite unexpectedly came his lifelong adversary and most hated political enemy to the rescue. While the president was cornered in this uncomfortable Panama Papers spot, Mr. Davíð Oddsson, a former prime minister, an old political fox, and a veteran of Icelandic politics, announced his desire and decision to enter the race for the presidency.  Almost immediately, Mr. Grímsson announced his final decision not to participate in the presidential election, referring to Mr. Oddsson as the other person capable of leading the Icelandic nation through this Panama Papers turmoil and uncertainty. While praising his former political enemy, who he said had a "shitlike nature" years before in the Alþingi (Icelandic parliament), he told the reporter, when finally dragged in front of a microphone and a camera, that he was very relieved to leave office. Needless to say, the whole nation was astounded. If Mr. Oddsson will actually follow up on his decision and participate in the race remains to be seen. Despite his role in the collapse of the Icelandic economy in 2007, he still has many admirers and followers.

The other candidates

At least twenty other candidates have announced their candidacy. Five withdrew from the race when Mr. Grímsson announced that he was canceling his decision not to run for president.  None of them has entered the race again after Mr. Grímsson told reporters that he was withdrawing his decision to cancel the decision not to participate in the presidential election.  The remaining candidates are a colorful group ranging, from a likable chap promoting his hamburger stand to some serious candidates with important agenda and messages.  Fortunately, for Icelanders, there are a few competent candidates, although the final number will not be apparent until after the deadline on May 21st.

Among the more determined candidates competing for this important office in Iceland is Andri Snær Magnason, a writer and an advocate for the preservation of the Icelandic Highland and the Icelandic language.  Andri Snær is well-known and liked in Iceland for his writing and also as an activist. He is among the youngest candidates ever to seriously run for president of Iceland.

Another candidate is Halla Tómasdóttir, who currently works as an international speaker.  Halla emphasizes just society and offers her leadership when it comes to important values. Her candidacy is groundbreaking as no presidential candidate in Iceland has, ever before, come from the financial and business community.  Although Halls is well known in some international circles, she is almost unknown to the Icelandic public. 

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is towering over all other candidates

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is the candidate that towers above all other candidates.  In recent polls, he had received around 60 to 70 percent of the votes.  Mr. Jóhannesson is a historian, writer, and teacher at the University of Iceland.  He has written important books about Iceland's modern political history and the history of the presidency.  His agenda is to unite the Icelanders and to make the presidency a symbol of unity again. He is also quite knowledgeable about the constitution and political development in Iceland and is likely to attract votes from all age groups.