Iceland President Will Not Run Again

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2016, citing age as his main reason.

“Twenty years is a long time in this business,” President Grimsson told news magazine Monocle in an interview. Grimsson has been president of Iceland since 1996 and is the longest-serving president in the country’s history.

President Grimsson hinted he might not run again in 2012, citing his desire to pursue other interests. A petition signed by more than 30,000 Icelanders forced him to change his mind.

After winning a heated election against former television journalist Þóra Arnórsdóttir, President Grimsson again suggested in 2012 that he might not stay through to the end of term.

President Grimsson steered his nation through the economic boom times of the last two decades, and most heroically, the economic collapse of 2008-2009. By choosing to prosecute bank managers and not bailing out the banks, Grimsson is credited with salvaging the Icelandic economy while other nations defaulted during the world wide crisis.

 Þóra Arnórsdóttir

Þóra Arnórsdóttir

During the economic crisis, President Grimsson became the first president to step out of his largely ceremonial role and exercise a never-before-used power to turn a law passed by parliament over to a public vote. By refusing to sign a bill that would have made the Icelandic people pay back billions to Britain and Holland over the failed IceSave bank, President Grimsson forced the banks that made the crisis to be responsible for their debt.

Although considered to be center-left, President Grimsson has had complimentary things to say about politicians on the right side of the aisle, including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

“I sensed in her a fundamental political capability, a political nature that you either have or you don’t,” President Grimsson said of the Tea Party favorite in 2011. “It’s like a musical quality. Whether people are for or against [her] that she has taken herself from an elected official in Alaska to become one of the most influential forces in politics in a matter of years demonstrates her ability.”

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