First of all: Congratulations to Americans, and the world, on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. While I’m relieved to see President Barack Obama continue for a second term in office, I’m also grateful that this will be his last.
Politicians easily become stagnated, blinded by their power and too convinced of their own qualities. In Iceland, we have a president currently serving his fifth term in office and if you ask me, he overstayed his welcome a long time ago.
Unfortunately, the majority of voters disagreed with me—that’s the downside of democracy.
However, if the proposals of the Constitutional Council for a new Constitution of Iceland will be accepted, no president will remain in power for longer than three terms.
Similarly, no one will be able to serve the same ministerial post for longer than eight years. This is certainly a necessary improvement, although I would have liked to see a time limit for how long parliamentarians can serve in Alþingi as well.
Experience counts for something but at the same time, new people with fresh ideas are needed to break the vicious cycle of nonsense that we too often witness in parliament.
In recent weeks, many of Iceland’s longest-serving politicians have announced that they will retire from parliament after the current term ends in the spring of 2013.
Among them is Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the country’s most experienced politician with 34 years in parliament.
Having recently turned 70 and boasting considerable success in probably the four most turbulent years anyone has ever led an administration in Iceland, she has recognized that her time as a politician has come to an end.
‘My Time Will Come’ is actually Jóhanna’s motto, a slogan everyone connects with her, and perhaps the reason why she didn’t retire sooner.
After losing against Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson as chair for the Social Democratic Party (the forerunner of the Social Democratic Alliance) in 1994, Jóhanna gave a memorable speech, which ended thus:
“Defeat is not the end of everything, because in victory defeat may lie and in defeat the roots of success. My time will come!”
Then Jóhanna went on to found her own party, the National Awakening, and won four seats in parliament. Before taking on the position of Prime Minister in 2009, she had served as Minister of Social Affairs in 1987-1994 and 2007-2009.
Jóhanna’s time did come eventually.
When the Independence Party-Social Democrat coalition collapsed in early 2009, following the collapse of the banks, Jóhanna was the minister in which the public had the most faith.
And so her party’s chair and former Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir suggested that Jóhanna take over from Geir H. Haarde as PM.
It seemed as if Jóhanna was reluctant at first, perhaps having already planned to retire. Leading Iceland out of the crisis was no easy task.
But she accepted the challenge and thus became Iceland’s first female PM and the world’s first openly gay head-of-state—which garnered significant attention around the globe but wasn’t a big issue in Iceland.
We had other things on our minds. Never mind her sexual orientation… was Jóhanna the right person for the job?
I believe she was and that Jóhanna will go down in history as a successful premier.
Her administration is far from perfect and she has not been very visible—at least not internationally—but she must have worked hard behind the scenes because Iceland is undeniably in a better position than when she took over.
But now it is time for someone else to steer the ship and I can only hope that someone won’t be Bjarni Benediktsson, chair of the Independence Party, which is currently leading in polls.
Is it really a good idea to have the very party back in power that had the most to do with creating the crisis we’re still working our way out of?
Lately I’ve noticed many young, new candidates running in primaries across the country. There are some new political parties as well, but none look particularly promising to me. However, I won’t pass any judgment until after the campaign for next year’s election.
Meanwhile, I hope some of the remaining old dogs in parliament will consider calling it quits. We really don’t need ministers who can’t think of anything more sensible to do than undeservedly criticize meteorologists for not forecasting bad enough weather.
Perhaps they should be tried and jailed like the Italian scientists for not foreseeing the magnitude of an earthquake?
Things like these go to show that it is desperately time for renewal in politics. The time is up for old-timers.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org