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Introducing the Icelandic Government

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Introducing the Icelandic Government

Alþingishúsið

Alþingishúsið, the Icelandic parliamentary building. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Following is a brief introduction to the new Icelandic government, mostly based on RÚV.

Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson has been the leader of the Independence Party since 2009. He was elected member of parliament in 2003. He first caught attention as a promising football player, but became involved in politics at an early age. Before being elected to Alþingi, he worked as a lawyer and served as the chair of the board of the companies N1 and BNT. His name was mentioned in the Panama Papers, since he had connections to an offshore company. (Bjarni is also a talented baker, as this campaign video shows.)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson has served as MP for close to 14 years and as Reykjavík City council member 1998-2006. He was minister of health from 2007-2009. He was criticized after the financial crisis once it was revealed that the Independene Party accepted large donations from companies after Alþingi voted to ban such donations, but before the law took effect.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir is a new member of Alþingi, but has for two years served as an assistant to the minister for the interior. At 29, she is the youngest member of the cabinet. She has been active in the Independence Party from an early age and has served as the party group’s managing director.

Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen stepped in as an MP during the middle of last term. She has served as a substitute MP from time to time since 2008.

Minister of Transportation, Regional Development and Municipal Affairs Jón Gunnarsson has been an MP for the Independence Party for almost a decade. During the past term, he served as vice chair of Alþingi’s Industrial Affairs Committee, a post around which there was quite a stir, since it oversaw controversial issues such as heavy industry and power plants. Jón has worked as a farmer and is the former managing director of ICE-SAR.

Minister of Education Kristján Þór Júlíusson served as minister of health in the outgoing government. He was elected MP in 2007 and has served as mayor of Dalvík, Ísafjörður and Akureyri.

Minister of Health Óttarr Proppé first became known as a member of the rock band Ham. He later became a well known bookseller, but best know after competing in the preliminaries for the Eurovision contest in Iceland in the band Dr. Spock and for providing backing vocals for the band Pollapönk in the 2014 Eurovision contest. His political career began on the Reykjavík City council as a member of the Best Party. He served on the council until elected MP for Bright Future in 2013.

You can watch the band Dr. Spock perform here:

Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Björt Ólafsdóttir was elected MP for Bright Future in 2013. Her background includes working in human resources and then heading the Icelandic Mental Health Alliance 2011-2013. She caught attention in March of 2015 for taking part in the feminist initiative Free the Nipple by exposing her breast on Twitter.

Minister of Finance Benedikt Jóhannesson is the founder of the Reform Party, originally created by former members of the Independence Party who felt betrayed when Independents failed to hold a national referendum, as promised, on whether membership negotiations with the European Union should continue. Benedikt has long been an investor and has served as the chairman of the boards of various companies. He founded the consulting company Talnakönnun in 1984 and was, until recently, the CEO of the publishing company Heimur, which, among other magazines, publishes Iceland Review.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir served as MP for the Independence Party for 14 years, from 1999 to 2013. During that time, she served as minister of education for six years and vice chair of the Independence Party for five years. She was harshly criticized for loans which her husband Kristján Arason’s company obtained before the banking collapse, due to his position at one of the country’s banks. She joined the Reform Party last year.

Minister of Social Affairs and Equal Rights Þorsteinn Víglundsson was the managing director of SA – Confederation of Icelandic Employers for three years prior to joining the Reform Party. From 2010 to 2013, he was the managing director of the Association of Aluminum Producers, but had previously been the CEO of BM Vallá. He has served as board member for SI – The Federation of Icelandic Industries and as chair of Gildi retirement fund.

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