Q&A With Presidential Candidates: Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson Skip to content

Q&A With Presidential Candidates: Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

In an effort to introduce the six presidential candidates better to the readers of icelandreview.com in time for the election on June 30, each of them was asked to answer five questions about themselves and their policies.

Their answers will be posted in the order of response. Fourth is current President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

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Ólafur Ragnar with his wife Dorrit Moussaieff. From the president’s Facebook site.

Born in Ísafjörður, the West Fjords, in 1943, Ólafur Ragnar is the fifth president of the Republic of Iceland, originally being inaugurated to the office in 1996.

With a background in economics and political science, Ólafur Ragnar has worked as a lecturer and professor at the University of Iceland. He has also worked in broadcast and print media, and has a long career in politics, serving as Minister of Finance in 1988-1991.

Ólafur Ragnar’s first wife was Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir, whom he married in 1974 and with whom he has twin daughters. She died after a long struggle with leukemia in 1998. In 2003, Ólafur Ragnar married his current wife Dorrit Moussaieff.

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1. What qualities do you have that would make you a good president?

The people of Iceland have always in every presidential election evaluated the candidates. Each and every Icelander has done so in his or her own way. I have therefore never spoken about myself in the way the question assumes.

2. What are the three most important goals you want to achieve as president?

The presidency has many important functions, some are determined by the constitution, others are influenced by the nation and the international community. The president has respectfully to serve within these contexts; the national will being more important than his personal wishes. Therefore the main goal of each president should be to serve the nation well.

3. On what issues will you focus when representing Iceland abroad?

The history of Iceland, the culture, the democratic traditions, the unique nature, the clean energy, the environment and the fight against climate change, cooperation in the Northern region, peace and justice for all.

4. Under which circumstances should the president use the 26th article of the constitution, that is, veto legislations and refer them to national referendums?

The essence of this article in the constitution is that it underlines the power of the Icelandic people to have final say if there is a fundamental disagreement between the people and the parliament on laws that the parliament has passed. It is therefore the strength of the democratic will among the nation that is the primary influence on the president’s decision.

It is a misunderstanding, often expressed, that the right to refer a law to referendum is a special tool of the president to be used at his own desire. This article in the constitution expresses a keystone of Icelandic democracy: the will of the people.

5. Should the president take a stand on controversial issues, such as European Union membership, and publicly express his/her views on them?

The general rule is that the president does not participate in everyday political debate. When, however, fundamental issues that will affect the nature of the Republic and the long-term future of the Icelandic nation have been put on the agenda, the nation has the right to know the president’s views.

His experience and knowledge could also help to make the debate informative and balanced. Fundamental change in the constitution of Iceland and the membership in the European Union are issues of this nature.

Ólafur Ragnar’s campaign website is olafurogdorrit.is.

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Traditionally, the role of the President of Iceland has been apolitical and symbolic. The president is to unify the nation and serve as cultural ambassador for Iceland.

The president is neither part of the legislative nor the executive, although he/she formally appoints governments and legislations require his/her approval, which is usually considered a formality.

However, the role of the president has been subject to different interpretations in the Constitution of Iceland and a clearer definition of the office is strived for in the draft for a new constitution Icelanders will vote on in a consultative referendum in October.

Read also, the Q&A with:

Ari Trausti Guðmundsson

Þóra Arnórsdóttir

Hannes Bjarnason

ESA

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