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Field Open for Up to 159 Presidential Candidates

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Field Open for Up to 159 Presidential Candidates

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Now that President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has announced he won’t be running again this spring, the field is wide open. Three candidates have announced their intention to run, and many more have shown interest. Those who have thrown their hat into the ring are author Þorgrímur Þráinsson, best known for his young adult books, poet Elísabet Jökulsdóttir, and Ástþór Magnússon, who is running for president for the fourth time.

Among those who Icelanders have mentioned that they would like to see as president are former mayor Jón Gnarr[z1] , Left-Green Movement Leader Katrín Jakobsdóttirand author and environmentalist Andri Snær Magnason.All three appear to have significant support but none have indicated that they will run.

Potential candidates must submit the signatures of a minimum of 1,500, but a maximum of 3,000, supporters to qualify. The rule dates back to 1944, when 1,500 voters represented two percent of the electorate, Today, that rate is down to 0.6 percent. Eyjan did the math and found out that given all candidates submit a list of 1,500 supporters, a maximum of 159 candidates can run.

Law Professor Björg Thorarensen points out how drastically Ólafur Ragnar has changed the office of the president during his 20 years in office. Now, it has come to be accepted that the president plays a supervisory role at Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, by using the office’s veto power to put the decision of controversial issues before the nation in a referendum, she told RÚV. Previously, the role of president was a symbolic and ceremonial one.

Ólafur Ragnar first ran for president in 1996 and was elected with 41.4 percent of the vote. Four years later, he ran unopposed. In 2004, he received 85.6 percent of the vote and ran unopposed in 2008. In 2012, he announced his decision not to seek reelection, but gave in to pressure to run once again. The signatures of 30,000 voters were collected, enough for him to change his mind. He ran against five opponents and was reelected with 53 percent of the vote.

Ólafur Ragnar used his veto power three times during his office as president―the first Icelandic president to do so―allowing the nation instead to vote on issues in a referendum. First in 2004, when he refused to sign a law intended to change media laws, and again in 2010 and 2011, when he refused to sign laws regarding Icesave. A referendum was never held regarding the controversial media law, because the law was withdrawn. In both referendums on the Icesave bills, the Icelandic nation voted against them.

In recent years, Ólafur Ragnar has taken a leadership role in discussion of issues regarding climate change and the Arctic, most recently heading the Arctic Circle Conference at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík in October.

Ólafur Ragnar lost his first wife, Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir, to leukemia in 1998, only two years after first being elected president. Five years later, he married Dorrit Moussaieff, originally from Israel. Ólafur has twin daughters from his first marriage.

A poll published on December 28 showed that 47.8 percent of respondents were pleased with the president’s job performance, down from 54.8 percent.

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