The charismatic Katrin Jakobsdóttir starts her first day as prime minister on the 99th anniversary of sovereignty

  • Katrin Jakobsdóttir starts her first day as prime minister on the 99th anniversary of sovereignty
Dec 2 2017

Icelanders often pride themselves on the fact that the fight for independence was won with one weapon, the pen.  During the battle, no shot was fired and no blood was shed. Instead, our heroes wrote tons of articles, delivered multiple proposals, presented arguments, and participated in disputes for many decades. In steps and milestones like a constitution, sovereignty, and home rule the fight was won and independence achieved in 1944. Achievements that are still admired and celebrated by Icelanders.  One event is commemorated on the lot in front of the office of the prime minister, in the city center in Reykjavík, with a statue of Kristian the 9th King of Denmark, delivering Icelanders a new constitution in 1874. One year short of a century today the Icelandic flag was hoisted on this same lot marking the first day of sovereignty.  The other statue on the lot is the first Icelandic minister who took office in 1904.  Both symbols of our struggle for independence.

A new prime minister and a new government

Today on December 1st 2017 our new prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdóttir, started her first day in office. Katrin is the leader of the Left-Green movement and is leading a government coalition with the Independent party (a right wing party)  and the Progressive party (a farmers party) most often placed in the middle on the left-right political spectrum.  A coalition that more or less covers the whole ideological scope and up to this moment was considered impossible. But despite its radical socialist roots the Left-Green Movement, like many left-wing factions and parties throughout the history of Iceland, also has deep nationalistic elements. In essence, it is an element that can be traced to our long fight for independence and was woven into the socialist ideology.  This is one reason why this broad coalition on a broad political spectrum is possible. In essence, the three parties can agree on some highly conservative topics.  Number one, not to send an application to the European Union. Number two, to stick to the Icelandic krona as our currency.  Two of the most disputed subjects in Icelandic politics in recent years. But each party also has its favorite policies enhanced it the agreement as expected in any coalition.  Also, economic circumstances are favorable which makes it comfortable for the new government to set significant disagreements aside and concentrate on building a better infrastructure in health care, communication, and education.  Overall the new government is considered to be a positive political step, and most Icelanders are quite supportive of this unusual coalition.

Katrin Jakobsdóttir at election night in RUV Icelandic TV

Katrin Jakobsdóttir at election night in RUV Icelandic TV

Katrin is a politician with a unique place in Icelandic politics

One major factor that made this coalition possible is the charismatic and highly admired Katrin Jakobsdóttir.  Last year when Icelanders elected a new president, Katrin surpassed all potential candidates in all polls as the most favorable by a huge margin.  Most serious wannabees held back to announce their candidacy until she had announced without a doubt that she would NOT run. It was clear that she would have won by a landslide.   And even though her Left-Green party has a support of 12% to 20% in polls and elections her personal support as a government leader largely exceeds that number.  In many surveys before recent elections, people in all parties in Iceland wanted to see her as the leader of the government.

An honest politician from a family of politicians and culture

The popularity and admiration are often contributed to Katrins nonsense and down to earth attitude.  Although only 41 years old she is an experienced politician and has been a member of parliament since 2007 and served as a minister of education for four years in 2009 - 2012.  She is highly intelligent and can easily communicate with everyone in her honest and likable way. As a politician, she usually gives straight and understandable answers and comes across in the media as trustworthy and reliable.  Katrin is also a good representative of her generation and fights for important matters like preservation of nature, human rights, and equality.  Katrin comes from a family of politicians, and her great-grandfather Skúli Thoroddsen fought for the positions to become the first Icelandic minister as Icelanders gained home rule in 1904 but lost to Hannes Hafstein, who ironically is the other statue on the lot of the prime minister's office.   But like her great-grandfather, who fought many political battles, Katrin has a steep road ahead.  Leading such a broad coalition is not an easy task, the majority in the Icelandic Parliment is slim, and her party has a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with. The main question now is: Can she stay in office throughout the next four years?

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