Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK96, ICELAND: PRESIDENT GRIMSSON RE-ELECTED BY DEFAULT FOR A
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|08REYKJAVIK96||2008-06-02 17:05||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
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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