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Icelandic President Rejects CNN Dictator Comparison

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Icelandic President Rejects CNN Dictator Comparison

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has told CNN that his long term in office is not comparable to a dictator, because the President of Iceland is regularly democratically elected.

In fact, the president says, Iceland is among the oldest democracies in the world to have given farmers, fishermen and everyone else the chance to elect a president as equals.

The global news network asked the president about his recent decision to withdraw his promise of retirement and stand for an unprecedented sixth term this June. He has been president for 20 years.

“That’s right. It is an extraordinarily long time,” Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said in the interview. But, he says, in recent months, and especially recent weeks, there have been loud calls for “stability and experience” and people have been looking to him to continue serving the nation.

He pointed to his decision to refer parliamentary bills to public referendums, such as the Icesave laws and the media control law, as examples—saying that people want to trust that their future president will act in a similar way when needed.

Asked about the Panama Papers leak, which cost the former prime minister his job a couple of weeks ago, Ólafur said the release of leaked documents was a “great public service”. It is in keeping with the changing times. People live in an open and transparent world and politicians have to be accountable to people. This came as a wakeup call to the fact that the workings of the financial systems over the last 20-30 years are no longer to be tolerated.

Asked directly about his own personal finances, and those of his wife, the president was very clear: there are no links to offshore tax havens and no dodgy dealings of any kind.

You can see the interview, in English, here.

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