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Cablegate: Iceland: President Grimsson Re-Elected by Default for A

VZCZCXRO9133
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRK #0096 1541700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021700Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3662
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000096

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NB, INR-B

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: PRESIDENT GRIMSSON RE-ELECTED BY DEFAULT FOR A
FOURTH TERM

REFS: A) REYKJAVIK 001
B) 04 REYKJAVIK 316

1. (SBU) Summary: Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson won
re-election by default on May 24 after the deadline for candidate
registration passed with no challengers announcing. The election,
previously scheduled for June 28, has been cancelled; Grimsson will
start his fourth, and likely last, term in August. The news came as
no surprise to Icelanders, as borne out by modest media coverage.
The lack of challengers reflects Grimsson's success in moving on
from the controversy of 2004, when he won re-election but with a
record number of spoiled "protest" ballots. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Iceland's presidential elections were previously scheduled
for June 28, with a deadline for potential candidates to file with
the Ministry of Justice by May 24. Incumbent President Olafur
Ragnar Grimsson was the only candidate to do so, and has therefore
won the election by default as per Article 5 of the Icelandic
Constitution. The results will be certified by the Supreme Court on
June 11. Grimsson was first elected President of Iceland in 1996;
he was re-elected by default in 2000, and beat two opponents in
2004. He announced in his televised 2008 New Year's Day Address
that he would run for a fourth term this year (Ref A). Grimsson
will be re-inaugurated on August 1.

3. (U) Grimsson seems to have largely overcome the controversy of
his earlier term in office. Voter turnout in the 2004 presidential
election was only 62.9 percent, which was the lowest ever for an
Icelandic presidential election (Ref B). (By comparison, in
parliamentary elections voter turnout typically ranges between 80
and 90 percent.) Twenty-three percent of votes cast in 2004 were
empty ballots, or protest votes. This means that only 67 percent of
those who went to the polls voted for Grimsson. At the time, many
were unhappy over Grimsson's public feuding with the government of
then-Prime Minister David Oddsson and Grimsson's refusal to sign a
controversial bill restricting media ownership. Though a large part
of the public also opposed the bill, many viewed Grimsson's veto --
the first ever in Icelandic history -- as an unwelcome change to a
largely ceremonial office. In contrast, in the wake of Grimsson's
announcement this year that he would run for the fourth time, a
January Gallup poll showed that 86 percent supported him as
President, and 80 percent said they were in favor of his running for
the presidency for the fourth time. Nevertheless, over half of the
people asked said that the appropriate tenure for a President should
be 10-12 years.

4. (SBU) Comment: It had been somewhat expected in recent months
that no one -- or at least no one with serious intentions -- would
challenge President Grimsson. Hence, his re-election by default did
not come as a total surprise, which is buttressed by the fact that
news coverage of the event was minimal and no politicians made any
remarks in regards to it. When Grimsson finishes his fourth term in
2012 he will have been President for 16 years, but it is widely
believed that he will not run again. In the past it was rumored
that after he stepped down as President he would try to land a
high-profile international job, for example, with the United
Nations. An English-language biography slated to be published
before Christmas 2007 was put on hold indefinitely last fall. The
biography, probably intended to raise Grimsson's international
profile, was widely construed as preparation for a career change,
but that too looks to be on hold for the time being.

VAN VOORST

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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