Prime Minister to Announce Decision on Presidential Bid Today

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is expected to announce her decision on a potential presidential bid today, amid widespread speculation and a government meeting held early this morning. A political scientist has referred to the situation as “unprecedented.”

Expected to announce her decision today

A government meeting began at 8:30 AM in the Umbra building at Skuggasund in downtown Reykjavík, Mbl.is reports. There is much speculation about a possible presidential run by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and she is expected to announce her decision today.

As noted by Mbl.is, many believe that Katrín will ask to be relieved of her duties for herself and her ministry if she decides to run. The coalition parties will then attempt to form a new government under another leader.

Parliament reconvenes on Monday after the Easter break, and by then, it is expected to be clear whether Katrín will proceed with her candidacy.

An unprecedented situation

“It is clear that this has never happened before in Icelandic politics,” professor of political science Ólafur Þ. Harðarson told RÚV earlier this week. Ólafur believes that a presidential bid by the sitting Prime Minister could cause all sorts of problems in the coalition government.

“Especially in a coalition partnership that has been as fragile as the current one has been for the last two or three years,” Ólafur noted, adding that he believes Katrín would not want to run for President of Iceland unless she has ensured that a peaceful solution is reached for the continuation of the government’s life. Instability in the government is simply not a good starting point for her possible candidacy.

“I believe she will do everything to avoid that, and from what I hear from the leaders of the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, they are very keen on resolving this matter peacefully,” Ólafur continued, highlighting that none of the governing parties wants to go to elections early. Additionally, it would signal disintegration if presidential and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously.

Sixty-eight individuals are currently gathering endorsements for presidential bids. As noted on IR, former mayor of Reykjavík and comedian Jón Gnarr announced that he would be running for president in a social media post earlier this week. Two new candidates have also tossed their hats into the ring: actress Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir and Guðmundur Felix Grétarsson. Political scientist Baldur Þórhallsson has been polling strongly.

Prime Minister’s Silence Fuels Speculation of Presidential Bid

The parliamentary leader of the Independence Party has convened a meeting to discuss the implications of a possible bid by the Prime Minister for President on the coalition government. The list of candidates gathering endorsements for the presidential bid currently numbers 63.

PM’s candidacy would impact coalition

Hildur Sverrisdóttir, the parliamentary leader of the Independence Party, will convene a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group today due to a possible presidential bid by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Hildur stated that she believed it was more likely than not that Katrín would run for president.

“Yes, I can confirm that we will hold a parliamentary group meeting … even though Parliament is not in session. I feel it’s right to convene a meeting in light of this situation. Although nothing is confirmed yet, I think it’s natural for us to discuss among ourselves what a possible candidacy of the Prime Minister could entail,” Hildur observed.

When asked what impact Katrín’s candidacy would have on the coalition government, Hildur responded thusly: “It’s clear that it would have some impact on our cooperation, although Katrín has yet to confirm her candidacy.”

Like Eiríkur Bergmann, professor of political science at the University of Iceland, Hildur believes that there is a good chance that Katrín will announce her candidacy in the coming days: “Based on the time that has passed, I would personally think it’s more likely than not. But I have no more information on this than anyone else following this development at this point,” Hildur stated.

Eiríkur made a similar observation in a recent conversation with RÚV: “Since the Prime Minister is letting this discussion continue without denying it, we can conclude that she has a significant interest in running and that the chances are now greater rather than lesser that she will make a bid. Otherwise, she would have simply refuted it by now.”

More candidates announce their bids

As of today, 63 individuals are currently gathering endorsements for presidential bids. As noted on IR this morning, former mayor of Reykjavík and comedian Jón Gnarr announced that he would be running for president in a social media post yesterday. Two new candidates have since tossed their hats into the ring: actress Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir and Guðmundur Felix Grétarsson.

Read More: The Right to Bear Arms (On Guðmundur Felix’s Arm Transplant Surgery)

From Goalkeeper to President? Björgvin Páll Says “Not Yet”

Goalkeeper Björgvin Páll Gústavsson

National handball team goalkeeper Björgvin Páll Gústavsson has decided not to run for the presidency of Iceland, despite a longstanding dream and public speculation about his candidacy. Björgvin cites a lack of experience and other personal dreams as reasons for not pursuing the office. Presidential elections are set for June 1.

A dream deferred

In his annual New Year’s address, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson announced that he would be stepping down from the presidency after two terms in office, having served eight years in total. Guðni had previously declared that he would only serve three terms at most. Since his decision, a handful of individuals have announced their candidacy (none of whom have been especially popular in the polls). 

Among those individuals who have been linked to the candidacy is Björgvin Páll Gústavsson, the men’s national handball team goalkeeper and player for the Icelandic club Valur. In a Facebook post today, however, Björgvin Páll clarified that he would not be running for the office of the President.

“I have many dreams, one of them is to someday become the President of Iceland,” Björgvin Páll said on Facebook. “But not now. I do not consider myself experienced enough to be president. Besides, there are all sorts of other dreams getting in the way that I need to fulfil first. These dreams are related to sports, my children, and all the other children. One is allowed to dream, and as Vigdís Finnbogadóttir put it during her inauguration in 1980: ‘We are the stuff that dreams are spun from,’” Björgvin Páll remarked.

In his post, Björgvin notes that his dream of becoming president first ignited during an admission into the Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Department of the National Hospital (BUGL) when he was just eight years old. This dream was further reinforced when he was awarded the Order of the Falcon 15 years later. Following the publication of his children’s book, A Child Becomes President, in December 2022, a poll was conducted by the media outlet Vísir and the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis, wherein 40% of respondents said that they could envision Björgvin as president.

Presidential elections will take place on June 1 of this year and the new president’s term will begin on August 1. Among those individuals who have already announced their candidacy are entrepreneur Ástþór Magnússon, attorney Arnar Þór Jónsson, and investor Sigríður Hrund Pétursdóttir.

Leadership of Independence Party to be Contested?

This week, Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson confirmed that he is considering his candidacy for Chair of Iceland’s Independence Party – at the party’s National Convention next weekend. Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, who has served as the leader of the Icelandic Independence Party since 2009, has stated that it would be “unusual to change the party leadership” when so little time has elapsed since the formation of a new coalition government.

A brief history of the Independence Party

Iceland’s Independence Party was formed in 1929 through a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The party has won the largest share of the vote in every election except 2009 (when it fell behind the Social Democratic Alliance). Furthermore, every Independence Party leader has at some point held the office of Prime Minister. Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, has served as the leader of the Icelandic Independence Party since 2009.

The party commonly hosts its National Convention every two years. Owing to the pandemic, however, the Independence Party has not held a National Convention for four and a half years. In the run-up to this year’s convention, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson – who first became involved with the Independence Party in 1987 when he was elected to the board of the National Youth Organisation – surprised not a few party members, and ordinary citizens alike, by confirming that he was considering running against Chairman Bjarni.

Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Guðlaugur voiced his concern for the state of the party: “Many have encouraged me to run. Their message is always the same: they’re worried about the state of the party. They – and this goes for me, too – don’t accept our current position … and without the necessary support, it will be more difficult for us to implement our policy and our ideals.”

According to RÚV’s sources, Guðlaugur has entertained the notion of running for Chairman “for some time … having privately and publicly laid the foundation for his candidacy by ensuring that his supporters hold the reins in certain key positions that allocate seats at the National Convention. Meanwhile, Bjarni has focused his attention on the state finances during troubling times.” Approximately 2,000 party members will be offered seats at the Convention, who would then be eligible to vote in the event that Guðlaugur decided to throw his hat in the ring.

“Come at the king, best not miss”

Writing for RÚV, reporter María Sigrún Hilmarsdóttir, citing aforementioned sources, states that Guðlaugur Þór is aware that he’s got “one shot in the gun,” so to speak, and that now may be the time; Guðlaugur Þór defeated Minister Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir during the Independence Party’s primary elections in Reykjavík last summer, and if Guðlaugur Þór fails to announce now, it would be “a sign of weakness and a lack of courage.”

Supporters of Chairman Bjarni Benediktsson are “prepared for the fight,” according to RÚV’s sources. Some of them are, however, surprised that Guðlaugur hadn’t taken “more conventional routes” in declaring his candidacy: announcing his intentions sooner and embarking on a “nationwide campaign of meetings to gather support and shore up his position.”

Bjarni’s supporters also maintain that the current Chairman has yet to reach his prime – and that his best years are still ahead of him. They also note that “any talk of loss of popular support is empty given that the political landscape has altered beyond recognition over the past years … given that 10 parties are now in the running.” Bjarni’s supporters also note – as Bjarni himself has noted – that the Chairman enjoys much greater support among his constituency compared to Guðlaugur.