President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced in his New Year’s Day speech on national radio and television that he would not run again for president. He said that it was “natural that he and Dorrit [his wife] were looking forward to more freedom.”
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was first elected president in 1996 when he came in first in a field of four with about 42% of the vote. He ran unopposed in 200 but in 2004 he got only 42.5% of the nation even though his two opponents were relatively unknown. Many chose abstain by staying home or submitting a bland vote.
President Ólafur Ragnar with the people on the first day of Althingi, October 2011. Photo: Geir Ólafsson/Iceland Review
He was the first president to use the presidential veto power he has according to the constitution. First he did this in 2004 when he was against the media law of Davíd Oddsson. Later he used it twice against the Icesave treaty with the Dutch and UK. The first time 99% of voters agreed with him, the second time it was 60% of the voters. He did however sign one such law which was clearly a worse deal than the one he later opposed. The case is now before courts.
The President in Althingi. Photo: Páll Kjartansson/Iceland Review
Ólafur Ragnar was a very controversial politician, a former Chairman of the People’s Alliance, formerly the Socialist Party. He was a fierce opponent of Davíd Oddsson, saying repeatedly in Althingi that Davíd, then Prime Minister, had a ****ty personality. The two have been united in recent times by their opposition to Icesave and the European Union.
A recent poll said the 48% of the population said they might vote for the president. This may not have been the support the president thought he needed. Most of his left wing support has eroded and he may not have trusted his newfound right wing support well enough. He is also getting older. Next spring he will be 69 years old.
In his speech today he said that this was not a goodbye but the start of a new beginning. he thanked the nation for the trust it had shown him.