Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, 18 years of Presidency

The President of Iceland held up his country as a model of economic recovery after its near-collapse six years ago. He stated several times their way was “not” to follow the traditional or established orthodoxies. And the end result, a couple years, later is that Iceland enjoys new progress and recovery. So who is this man?

The 5th President of the Republic of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, was born in Ísafjörður on 14 May 1943. He earned his degree in Economics and Political Science at the University of Manchester in 1965 and completed his Ph.D. at the same university in 1970, becoming the first Icelander to earn a doctorate in Political Science. Later he was appointed a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Iceland and created the foundations for the teaching of the subject as a new addition to the syllabus of the University and later, he developed the Political Science department. In most of his research he focused on the Icelandic governmental system. Early in his career, he began playing a role in public affairs in Iceland. For example, he directed radio and television programmes in the years 1966-1971, which were an innovation in mass media in Iceland and aroused a great deal of public attention.

During the years 1988-1991 he was Minister of Finance, but apart from his party political career he has been active in various societies and organizations. He was a member of the Economic Council from 1966 to 1968, the Broadcasting Council from 1971 to 1975. He was Chairman of the Icelandic Social Science Association in 1975, a member of the board of Landsvirkjun (the leading power company of Iceland) from 1983 to 1988, and a Vice-Chairman of the Icelandic Security Commission from 1979 to 1991.

In Iceland, the presidency is a largely ceremonial post. His opponents often accused him of politicising the role. He has courted controversy by using this power three times to veto bills that he disagreed with. On the other hand, the President strongly advocates the use of geothermal energy, which is renewable, economically viable and highly reliable energy resource, which has been proven, convincingly, in Iceland. He was first elected President in August 1996. There was no challenger in 2000, so he was automatically re-elected. In 2004 he was elected again with 67.5% margin. He was again the only candidate in 2008. In August 2012, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was sworn in for the 5th time as President of Iceland. After 18 years of power, he is currently one of the longest running, non-royal, Democratically elected national leaders.

Source: Office of the President of Iceland Photo: Egill Bjarnason