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 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)

Organizers Shovel Snow from Mountain Path in Advance of Summer Trail Running Event

The Súlur Vertical trail-running event will take place on mountain slopes outside of Akureyri, North Iceland this weekend. RÚV reports that organizers and volunteers have been hard at work preparing the trails, even manually shovelling snow on the uppermost slopes of Mt. Hlíðarfjall in order to carve out a running path for the longest race.

This is the seventh time Súlur Vertical has been held and participation is higher than ever been before, with 556 people registered to take part in three races of increasing distances: 18 km [11 mi], 28 km [17 mi], and 55 km [34 mi]. The longest race includes a section on Mt. Hlíðarfjall and a 3000-m [1.86-mi] elevation gain (earning 3 points with the International Trail Running Association).

Súlur Vertical, FB

“This section has been impassable due to snow since the winter,” read a Facebook post about the organizers’ trail-clearing efforts on Tuesday. “But many hands, shovels, ( and chainsaws!) made for light work and [this stretch] shouldn’t be much of an obstacle this weekend.” Súlur Vertical director Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson later clarified that the chainsaws were used to break through hard-packed ice along the trail and said the whole process took only a few hours. “When you have such a powerful group, projects like this one are no problem.”

“This also opens one of the most popular mountain trails around Akureyri to the general public and we welcome that,” he wrote in Tuesday’s post, “as one of the goals of the Súlur Vertical organization is to promote outdoor activity and physical activity in the area.”

Súlur Vertical, FB

The weather forecast isn’t looking promising for the coming weekend, and there’s even the possibility of snow in the mountains. But Þorbergur isn’t discouraged. “We’ll just make the best of the conditions and we’ve got plenty of hot cocoa and things like that.”

Learn more about Súlur Vertical (in English) here.

Cycling Race a Rare Opportunity for Riders

More than 100 cyclists took part in a socially distanced group ride on Thursday from Siglufjörður to Akureyri in North Iceland, RÚV reports. The event was part of the Akureyri Cycling Festival, which started last Saturday and will end on Sunday.

Competitors were organized into different race groups according to distance, the shortest of which, for adults, was 78 km [48 mi] and the longest of which was 102.8 km [639 mi]. The longest route took cyclists through the Héðinsfjörður and Múlagöng tunnels. And although climate conditions aren’t ideal in the tunnels, festival chair Árni F. Sigurðsson admits, being able to cycle through them is a unique opportunity. “It’s humid and cool,” he said, “and Múlagöng tunnel is one-way and very narrow, which makes it a bit of a struggle. But there’s no other opportunity to bike a route like that in a competition.”

Árni said that some people withdrew from the race because of the current rise in COVID infections, but assured that organizers were conscientious about safety measures. Riders were split into smaller groups, some of which never had reason to cross paths with one another. The award competition was also split between two locations and top prizes were given out before all competitors finished the race. “We gave [winners the awards] right away so that people wouldn’t gather together and wait.”

This is the fifth or sixth time the Akureyri Cycling Festival has been held, said Árni, and he encouraged people to take a look at the remaining schedule of events (here) as all events are open to the public spectators and take place outside over a large area, in compliance with current COVID guidelines.

Revision to Racial Terminology a ‘Step in the Right Direction’

An Icelandic woman of color says that there has been “a step in the right direction,” after receiving a formal apology from the Directorate of Health regarding an offensive racial term that was used on her medical chart. RÚV reports that Eva Þóra Hartmannsdóttir spoke to the Directorate’s project manager on the phone on Friday and discussed the incident, and the government’s response, in detail.

“You just get so used to things like this”

Eva Þóra, who is pregnant, went for a 25-week health check on July 2 when she noticed that the word “negríti” had been used to describe her on her medical chart. The word is by no means commonly used in Iceland and carries with it distinctly racist undertones. Although she’d never heard the word used before, “it’s no secret that it comes from the word ‘negri’ [‘negro’],” she explained in an interview with Morgunblaðið.

“I was really shocked when I saw that word,” Eva Þóra said, but when she asked about it, “…was told it had just always been used for my race.” She noted, however, that similarly charged racial terms such as ‘kákasíti’ (an inappropriate approximation of the word ‘caucasian’) would never be used when talking about white people.

Eva Þóra said that at the time of the incident, she received no explanation for why patients were being categorized by race, but that if there were a valid reason, then it should be easy to find a “more professional” word. “I’m a nursing student and I know that there is a new electronic system for the antenatal care department and I’m asking myself why people are being defined this way in a brand-new system.” She noted, for instance, that it would have been easy to use an origin-based term, such as ‘person of African descent,’ as is the convention on Icelandic passports.

It wasn’t until she talked about the incident with her sister that Eva Þóra decided to make it public. “You just get so used to things like this,” she said. “It is such a common part of life that you stop flinching at such things.”

Explanations and an apology

The incident was widely discussed in the Icelandic media and after having been contacted by several papers for interviews, Eva Þóra posted on Facebook that she’d received a phone call from the Directorate of Health on Friday.

“[T]hree days later, so much has happened. All kinds of support, negative comments, interviews with Fréttablaðið, Vísir, Morgunblaðið, and Channel 2 later…Then the Directorate of Health called me this morning and during a 25-minute conversation I not only receive an apology, but am even thanked for having started the conversation. I get a courteous explanation about everything, plenty of time to ask the questions I had, and at the end of the conversation, she wants to be certain that I’m satisfied, which I was.”

Eva Þóra went on to explain that the reason that there is a racial identifier on her medical chart is that she needed to take a glucose tolerance test, as women of color have an increased likeliness to develop gestational diabetes.

Nevertheless, there is not even a historical precedent for the Icelandic word ‘negríti,’ to be used as a racial identifier—Eva Þóra said she was told it had entered the Icelandic dictionary in the 80s. The term had been transferred over to the new electronic antenatal system from an old informational registry with inappropriate terminology. Although there had been a complaint about the term being used in a different situation back in December, not all health centres (including Eva Þóra’s) had been updated with the necessary changes. But the new system has now been revised at all health centres, so that Eva Þóra is now identified as being “of African origin” on her medical chart. She was also invited to take part in a trial group that allows pregnant women to access their full pregnancy records, including test results, sonograms, and more.

“I’m extremely glad to have said something on behalf of a minority here in Iceland and, among other things, to prevent my children, and of course, others of African and Asian descent, from having to see such a thing in their medical records,” Eva Þóra wrote.

“So glad to have gotten such a big response and apology on behalf of the government,” she concluded. “A step in the right direction.”