Katrín Leads Prósent Poll For First Time

ísland forseti

Former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir leads in a poll by market research company Prósent for the first time, reports Morgunblaðið.

Though this is her first time ranking first in a Prósent poll, the former Prime Minister also led in a recent Gallup poll. Katrín also leads in a recent Maskína poll from May 17.

Katrín leads polls

According to the latest numbers, Katrín leads with 22.1%, followed by Halla Hrund Logadóttir (19.7%), Baldur Þórhallson (18.2%), Halla Tómasdóttir (16.2%), and Jón Gnarr (13.4%).

In total, the top five candidates comprise some 90% of votes in the latest poll.

A turning point?

The latest results, with Katrín now leading in three major polls, may represent a turning point in the presidential race. Previously, Halla Hrund Logadóttir had led for some weeks, though admittedly by a relatively small margin.

In the latest Prósent poll, Katrín leads Halla Hrund by some 2.4 percentage points, and recent polls by Gallup and Maskína show similar results. The recent Gallup and Maskína polls also show the same relative positions for the other candidates.

Readers interested in the 2024 Icelandic presidential race may be interested in our recent interview with the major presidential candidates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bessastaðir Excavation Unearths Mother and Daughter

bessastaðir archaeology 2024

Archaeological excavations at Bessastaðir, the residence of the President of Iceland, have turned up two skeletons. Archaeologists believe the remains belong to a mother and daughter, said to have died of “heartbreak.” Vísir reports.

Unmarked grave

The recent discovery was made in an old grave site which abuts the Bessastaðir church.

bessastaðir archaeology 2024
Art Bicnick

The two skeletons still need to be tested in order to confirm their age and gender, but Hermann Jakob Hjartarson, an archaeologist overseeing the project, believes the remains may belong to the mother and daughter Anna Helena and Anna Vilhelmína, who may have died a tragic death in the 18th century.

Hermann stated to Vísir: “The mother was [likely] married to the viceroy of Iceland in the 18th century, Lauritz Thodal. He had this grave dug with his own money, but it’s not written anywhere as to who was buried here.”

Testing of the bones in question will hopefully resolve the mystery soon.

Died of “heartbreak”

“According to the sources, she [the daughter] died of a broken heart, whatever that may mean,” Hermann continued to Vísir. “She became involved with a merchant from Hafnarfjörður, and her step-father did not approve of this relationship and forbade her from being with him. The story goes that she languished and died shortly after.”

The daughter is believed to have been 18 years old when she died.

bessastaðir archaeology 2024
Art Bicnick

Other findings

In addition to the potentially tragic remains, several other notable findings were made during the most recent excavations at Bessastaðir, including a church floor, likely from the sixteenth century, leading to the old church underneath the new one, and four musket balls.

“It’s not clear what that tells us, except that at some point in time, a bullet was shot here,” said Hermann.

He continued: “We may actually be onto some sort of layer here underneath this. It remains to be seen, but there are indications that there is something slightly older beneath this layer.”

Archaeology at Bessastaðir

In the course of its history, Bessastaðir has numbered among the largest and most significant farmsteads in Iceland. A former residence of Snorri Sturluson, it later became a residence for representatives of the Danish king. It has also been a school and the residence of notable Icelandic poet Grímur Thomsen, before it was given to the Icelandic state in the first half of the 20th century, subsequently serving as the residence of the President of Iceland.

bessastaðir archaeology 2024
Art Bicnick

Archaeological excavations have been continuing on and off at the presidential residence for some time. Some of the most significant excavations took place between 1987 and 1996, which discovered a 3.5 m [11.4 ft]-thick layer of human habitation dating back to the 10th-11th centuries. Among the many interesting discoveries made at Bessastaðir include some of the best-preserved insect remains in Iceland, which have given archaeologists insight into the conditions at the time of settlement.

President of Iceland Participates in Coast Guard Helicopter Exercise

surtsey helicopter

The Coast Guard helicopter TF-GRO was called out yesterday, October 11, to remove two tires that had washed up on the beach near Bessastaðir.

Attempts to remove the rubbish had proved unsuccessful, and the Coast Guard helicopter was called in to aid in the operation. The tires were successfully removed and flown to Bessastaðir, where they will be disposed of.

president guðni coast guard helicopter
Screenshot – Vísir

Bessastaðir, located on Álftanes peninsula, is also the location of the presidential residence. The former farm was donated to the Icelandic state in 1941 and has been the home of the President of Iceland since the founding of the republic. Because the beach cleaning operation took place near the residence, the coast guard crew took the opportunity to include President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson in a training exercise.

The exercise involved simulating a rescue situation, in which Guðni himself was lifted by winch into the helicopter. He was soon returned in one piece after the conclusion of the exercise, which also involved a brief flight over the Álftanes peninsula. The crew was also invited for coffee at Bessastaðir following the exercise.

The Icelandic Coast Guard currently operates three helicopters, in addition to the turboprop surveillance and rescue aircraft TF-SIF.

 

Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir Succeeds Jón Gunnarsson as Justice Minister

Guðrún hafsteinsdóttir

Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir officially succeeded Jón Gunnarsson as Minister of Justice at a state council meeting this morning. At a press conference following the meeting, Guðrún stated that immigration was “the most urgent issue” facing Icelandic society today.

“That’s politics”

At a party meeting in Valhöll yesterday, Minister of Finance and Chair of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson confirmed that Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir would take over as Minister of Justice from Jón Gunnarsson. Guðrún was promised a ministerial position following the elections in 2021.

In an interview with Vísir, Bjarni Benediktsson stated that he did not worry about the divisiveness of the decision; Jón had done an excellent job as a minister, that he enjoyed the support of party members all over the country, but that he had faith that Guðrún could do well as his successor. Bjarni also made mention of the fact that this was the first time that women were in the majority of the Independence Party’s ministerial staff.

Guðrún told Vísir that she was excited about her new role. Asked if policy changes could be expected, she stated that Jón had worked according to the policies of the Independence Party and its national conference. “Which I will, of course, also do.” Some changes would be made, but first, she planned to identify the most urgent issues facing the Ministry: “We will see how things go from there,” Guðrún remarked.

Jón observed that the decision was in accordance with what was proposed at the beginning of the election period, although he did not deny wanting to remain as a minister. “But that’s politics,” he added.

Ministerial change confirmed at Bessastaðir

The ministerial change was officially confirmed at a state council meeting at Bessastaðir, the presidential residence, this morning. Jón Gunnarsson will remain an MP, although it remains to be seen whether he will take over as Chair of the Economic and Trade Committee from Guðrún.

At a press conference after the meeting, Guðrún stated that like her predecessor would follow the Independence Party’s policy in matters of immigration, adding that all systems in the asylum seeker system were being severely tested. “Immigration is the most urgent issue in Icelandic society today,” she observed. Guðrún also mentioned police matters and the sale of alcohol as urgent issues facing the cabinet.

Appointments to the National Court imminent

One of the projects that Guðrún takes on is the appointment of judges at the National Court.

The application deadline for one judge position at the National Court expired a week ago. While the state council meeting took place, the Ministry of Justice published a list of candidates: Ásgerður Ragnarsdóttir and Kjartan Bjarni Björgvinsson have applied for the position. As noted by RÚV, either of them will be appointed to the position starting August 21 after a jury considers their qualifications.

Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir
Golli

Pedro Gunnlaugur Garcia Gets the Icelandic Literary Prize

icelandic literary prize

The Icelandic Literary Prize was awarded last night, January 24, at a ceremony in Bessastaðir.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded the Icelandic Literary Prize, as well as the prize for best crime thriller, known as the “Blood Drop” award, the best non-fiction, and the best youth literature.

This year’s recipient of the Icelandic Literary Prize is Pedro Gunnlaugur Garcia for his novel, Lungu (Lungs), published by Bjartur.

According to the verdict by the award panel, Lungu is a sweeping family history of many generations from different corners of the world, which plays out in contemporary Iceland, but also stretches far into the future, culminating in a virtual reality where these generations mingle. Here, a new tone is struck in Icelandic fiction writing with a magical narrative that effortlessly and smoothly moves between the deepest emotions and conflicts to adventurous moments of joy with a mythical twist – so that even the greatest tragedies benefit from the joy. Relationships between lovers and generations are broken and damaged, but stories and memories illuminate fateful moments in their lives, showing the reader the very spark of life, and capturing the essence of a long life,” says the jury’s review.

At the ceremony, Pedro Gunnlaugur Garcia stated: “It is gratifying, strange, and frankly overwhelming that the book has reached readers, touched some people, and now won an award. I didn’t expect this at all; it was a distant dream at best.”

Other recipients this year included Skúli Sigurðsson for his crime thriller Stóri Bróðir (Big Brother), Arndís Þórarinsdóttir for her children’s book Kollhnís (Somersault), and Ragnar Stefánsson for his non-fiction Hvenær kemur sá stóri: Að spá fyrir um jarðskjálfta (When Is the Big One Coming: Predicting Earthquakes).

The Icelandic Literary Prize was founded in 1989 on the 100-year anniversary of the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers. Recipients of the award receive ISK 1 million [$6,930;  €6,360], provided by the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers.

 

 

 

14 Invested with the Order of the Falcon

president of iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded 14 individuals with the Order of the Falcon at the presidential residence, Bessastaðir, this New Year’s Day.

The award is the highest public honour in Iceland and is given out twice annually, on New Year’s Day, and June 17, Iceland’s National Day. The Order of the Falcon recognizes contributions to Icelandic society in a number of fields, including charity, scholarship, art, science, and leadership. The award is Iceland’s only order of chivalry and was founded in 1921 by King Christian X of Denmark.

Among the recipients of the order this year include actress Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir for her contributions to drama and television, epidemiologist Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir for her research, and systems engineer Örn S. Kaldalóns for his promotion of the Icelandic language in the tech sector.

A full list of this year’s recipients can be found here, in Icelandic.

 

Norwegian Crown Prince Visits Iceland

norway prince iceland

Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon is visiting Iceland for the Nordic Round Table conference.

On the docket are Nordic responses to climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Trying his hand at Icelandic, he briefly greet the assembly, but continued his talk in English. “We meet here in Reykjavík during difficult times. In these uncertain times, Norway emphasizes international law and continuing strong international cooperation. It has been going well for nearly thirty years and we must ensure that the Nordic Round Table remains the main forum for cooperation in the Nordics. Norwegians are looking forward to taking over the presidency next year,” he stated at a breakfast meeting this morning.

In addition to the conference, Prince Haakon also accompanied President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson on a hike to the eruption site at Fagradalsfjall. They were accompanied by both a ranger and geologist, who informed them about the geology of the Reykjanes region.

After the hike, the Crown Prince was invited to dinner at Bessastaðir, the presidential residence in Iceland.

President Presents Optimism Award, Invests Twelve With Order of Falcon

Twelve people were invested with the order of the Falcon at a reception at the Bessastaðir presidential residence on New Year’s Day. Shortly before Christmas, the order council passed a motion to present the badge in the same manner regardless of the recipient’s gender. A day later, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded the Icelandic Optimism Award to poet and writer Fríða Ísberg.

Until now, women invested with the Order of the Falcon have worn a knight’s cross or a grand knight’s cross on a bow but men on a ribbon. On December 5, 2021, the order council passed President of Iceland’s Guðni Th. Jóhannesson’s motion to make the ribbon the same for people of all genders.

All recipients now wear Iceland’s Order of the Falcon on a ribbon, regardless of gender.

The order is Iceland’s only order of chivalry, founded by King Christian x of Denmark, grandfather to the current queen of Denmark, in 1921 when he and queen Alexandrine visited Iceland. It was created and presented for the first time on July 3. With the foundation of the Republic of Iceland in 1944, the President of Iceland became the Grand Master of the Order of the Falcon.

The Icelandic Optimism Award was formerly known as Brøste’s Optimism Award, founded by the Danish Peter Brøste in 1981. Fríða has worked as a writer for a long time despite her young age. Fríða was nominated for the Nordic Literary Prize for her first short story collection, and despite only publishing her debut novel Merking a few months ago, her books already have been or are set to be translated into 14 different languages.

The twelve people invested with the Order of the Falcon on January 1, 2022:

  1. Professor Áslaug Geirsdóttir, Reykjavík, for her work in the field of geology and climate research.
  2. Bjarni Felixson, former sports reporter, Reykjavík, for his work in the field of sports, social affairs, and communication.
  3. Writer Gerður Kristný Guðjónsdóttir, Reykjavík, For her contribution to Icelandic literature.
  4. Entrepreneur Haraldur Ingi Þorleifsson, Reykjavík, for his work in the field of innocation and social affairs.
  5. Education Specialist Jóhanna Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir, Flateyri, for her contribution to education and culture in her region.
  6. Family Physician Katrín Fjeldsted, Reykjavík, for her contribution to healthcare and social affairs in addition to her public service.
  7. Designer Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, Kópavogi, for her pioneering work in the field of design and contribution to art.
  8. Ólafía Jakobsdóttir, former mayor, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, for ehr work in the field of nature conservation and cultural affairs in her region.
  9. Musician and composer Sigurður Flosason, Reykjavík, for his contribution to jazz music and work in music education.
  10. Professor emeritus and Head Civil Engineer Sigurjón Arason, Kópavogur, for research and development in seafood production.
  11. Ambassador Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson, Reykjavík, for public service.
  12. Professor Emeritus Trausti Valsson, Reykjavík, for his contribution to planning studies and national discourse.

 

 

New Coalition Government Takes Power

Update November 29, 2:30 PM: The names of several ministries have been updated.

After lengthy talks following last September’s parliamentary election, the ruling parties of the last coalition (The Independence Party, the Progressive Party, and the Left-Green Movement) have reached an agreement on a new government coalition, introduced earlier today. Katrín Jakobsdóttir will remain the Prime Minister and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson will continue in his role as Minister of Finance but other ministers take on new roles. The new cabinet has 12 ministers; five women and seven men.

At a State Council meeting at 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon at the Bessastaðir Presidential Residence, the President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson formally discharged Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s government coalition. A second State Council meeting began at 4:00 PM, where Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s new cabinet took office.

The Independence Party will take over the Environment Ministry, the Progressive Party takes the Ministry of Health, and education and culture, previously under one ministry, will now be split between a Ministry of Schools and Children, a Ministry for Innovation, Industry, and Universities, and a Ministry of Commerce and Culture.

Ministers in Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s new cabinet

From the Independence Party:

Bjarni Benediktsson, party chairman, will remain the Minister of Finance.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, formerly the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation, will become the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, formerly the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation, will be the Minister for the Environment and Climate Affairs.

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Justice, will be the Minister for Innovation, Industry, and Universities.

Jón Gunnarsson will be the Minister of Justice. He will be replaced by Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir halfway through the four-year term.

 

From the Progressive Party:

Willum Þór Þórsson will be the Minister of Health.

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, party chairman, formerly the Minister of Transport and Local Government, will be the Minister of the Interior.

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, will become the Minister of Commerce and Culture.

Ásmundur Einar Daðason, formerly the Minister of Social Affairs and Children, will become the Minister of Schools and Children.

 

From the Left-Green Movement:

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, party leader, will remain Prime Minister.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, formerly the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources will become the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Market.

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Health, will become the Minister of Food, Fisheries, and Agriculture.

Ghostly Grounding of Viking Ship Not a Halloween Prank

A ramshackle Viking ship ran aground near Bessastaðir, the presidential residence, on Friday afternoon, RÚV reports. With Halloween just around the corner, the unmanned vessel’s mysterious and unscheduled appearance briefly seemed supernatural in nature, but much more prosaic explanations were quickly uncovered.

Screenshot via RÚV

On Friday morning, reporters were notified that a ship had run aground on the islet of Eskines, just offshore from the Gálgahraun lava field, but they weren’t told what—or what kind of—ship it was. Inquiries made to the presidential secretary shed no further light on the eerie craft: no one at Bessastaðir even knew the ship was there.

After further investigation, reporters were finally able to determine that the ship was Vikingaskipið Drakar, a vessel modeled on the Gokstad ship. Gokstad was a 9th century Viking ship that was 24 meters [78 ft] long, 5 meters [16 ft] wide, and would have been manned by 32 Vikings. Drakar was commissioned by a Viking ship enthusiast in Brazil in 2007 and briefly used as a tour boat for as many as 95 passengers at a time. In 2015, however, it was sold and transported from Trinidad and Tobago to Iceland. It has been moored in Kópavogur for the last three or four years.

via Víkingaskipið Drakar, Facebook

The current owner, Kristinn Gíslason, was quick to confirm that the ghostly grounding was not a Halloween prank. He found out that his boat had drifted away when he got a call from the harbour at 11 am on Friday morning. But while it may not have been a Trick or Treat prank, some mischief was definitely at play: the harbour master confirmed that the ship had to have been purposefully released from its moorings. He’d heard talk that local teens snuck aboard Drakar the night before.

Drakar was only briefly stranded in the shallow waters around Eskines; high tide on Friday came at 12:40 and the ship was sailed back to its rightful harbour.