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Cablegate: Iceland: President Grimsson Announces His Re-Election Bid

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3534
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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TAGS: PGOV PREL IC

SUBJECT: ICELAND: PRESIDENT GRIMSSON ANNOUNCES HIS RE-ELECTION BID
FOR A FOURTH TERM


1. (U) Summary: Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
announced in his televised New Year's Day Address that he will run
for a fourth term as President of Iceland in the presidential
election on June 28. By doing so, he has put on hold any aspirations
of taking a high-level international office. Both politicians and
the public have reacted rather positively to the news, and, in the
absence of any political controversy involving Grimsson, he is set
to win the election this summer. End Summary.

2. (U) Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland and Head of
State but not Government, quieted any rumors in his New Year's Day
address that he would not be running for the fourth term as
President in this year's election. If re-elected, Grimsson would be
the third President to have served a fourth four-year term, for a
total of sixteen years.

3. (U) Rumors had been flying that Grimsson was either going to run
for election again or make a career change. There was speculation
that Grimsson might take a high-profile international job, for
example, with the United Nations. An English-language biography,
that was slated to be published before Christmas, has been put on
hold indefinitely. The biography, probably intended to raise
Grimsson's international profile, was widely construed as
preparation for a career change.

4. (U) The chairmen and spokespersons of the five major political
parties said that Grimsson's announcement did not come as a
surprise. Steingrimur J. Sigfusson, Chairman of the Left-Green
Movement, said that he likes the idea of limiting the President's
tenure to two six-year terms. The chairmen and spokesmen of the
other four parties do not agree with Sigfusson, but Thorgerdur
Katrin Gunnarsdottir, the Deputy Chairman of the Independence Party,
says that perhaps the constitutional role of the President should be
revised.

5. (U) The January 2 editorial in Morgunbladid, Iceland's
newspaper-of-record, said that Grimsson is somewhat eager to regain
the trust that he lost in the 2004 presidential election. Voter
turnout in the 2004 election was only 62.9 percent, out of which 20
percent were empty ballots, or protest votes. Note: In parliamentary
elections the voter turnout ranges between 80 and 90 percent. End
Note. The editorialist added that the 2004 election results should
not have come as a surprise because Grimsson had taken steps to
politicize the Presidency. Since the office has become more
controversial under Grimsson, the editorialist said that it begs the
question whether term limits should be imposed as is customary in
other countries.

6. (SBU) Comment: There is no limit on how many times one can run
for President in Iceland. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has been relatively
popular across the political spectrum as President and his
announcement to run for the fourth time has been generally welcomed.
An incumbent President has always won a re-election, and therefore
it is almost certain that he will win the election on June 28 even
if he is challenged. If there are no other contenders then he will
win automatically. In the last election in 2004 more votes than ever
before were empty ballots, or protest votes, which was most likely
due to Grimsson's controversial move not to sign a hotly contested
law on media ownership. Barring any such contentious spectacle,
Grimsson's re-election is a near certainty. End Comment.

KLOPFENSTEIN

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