Minister of Industries and Innovation Steingrímur J. Sigfússon announced on Saturday that he would not seek reelection as chairman of the Left-Green Movement, a position he has served for 14 years, at the party’s general meeting next weekend.
The party’s current vice-chair, Minister of Education, Culture and Science Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is set to take his place, ruv.is reports.
Steingrímur’s decision came as a surprise because until Saturday, he had indicated that he intended to continue as the party’s chair.
“You wouldn’t indicate anything else before announcing such a decision,” Steingrímur reasoned on RÚV’s Rás 2 radio program Morgunútvarpið this morning. “While you lead a party you wouldn’t make anything else known before making an announcement.”
Steingrímur dismissed suggestions that his decision had been sudden and that he had given in due to pressure from his party members.
On the contrary, he had been encouraged to continue as chair, Steingrímur stated. However, he had made his decision to quit two weeks ago.
The minister explained that he had half expected to be in this position today after the last election in 2009, when a demanding term was ahead.
“I was prepared for it, taking on the position as finance minister under these immensely difficult circumstances, knowing what would await the finance minister and that I might not end up as the most popular politician after I had done what had to be done,” Steingrímur said.
But popularity is not what finance ministers should have in mind, he added. “I took on the project thinking what the country needed wouldn’t necessarily be a man preoccupied with what his fate might be in the next election but one courageous enough to take the actions that were unavoidable.”
Steingrímur maintained that even though Icelanders may not appreciate his efforts, Iceland’s way out of the crisis, to spare the welfare system, has garnered attention abroad.
The minister also reasoned it is time for him to hand the reins as chair over to the next generation. “I had actually surpassed the timeframe I had considered suitable for this position.”
He said he welcomes Katrín’s candidacy as chair of the Left-Greens as she has extensive experience, having served as the party’s vice-chair for ten years, in spite of only being in her mid-thirties. It is unclear who will replace her as vice-chair.
Steingrímur stressed that he is not about to leave the political scene even though he is stepping down as party leader, concluding that he is excited about having more time to serve his constituency, the Northeast Constituency, as a regular MP.
The Left-Green Movement, which forms the current government coalition in Iceland with the Social-Democratic Alliance, has suffered significant losses, according to recent polls. The next general election will be in late April.
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