Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK28, ICELAND: LEFTIST GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER THE REINS; BIO
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|09REYKJAVIK28||2009-02-05 17:05||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000028 SIPDIS SENSITIVE STATE FOR EUR/NB, INR-B E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PINR IC SUBJECT: ICELAND: LEFTIST GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER THE REINS; BIO SKETCHES OF NEW CABINET Ref: Reykjavik 20 and previous ¶1. (U) Summary: After a week of negotiations, Iceland's Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement announced a minority government on February 1. The new government, dependent upon the centrist Progressive Party for support, is headed by SDA Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, Iceland's first female PM. The cabinet is gender-balanced and split equally between the two parties, with two ministers drawn from outside politics. The leftist government will have roughly 80 days to implement its domestic- and economics-focused agenda before early parliamentary elections on April 25. End Summary. ¶2. (U) One day after the collapse of the Independence Party (IP) and Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) coalition on January 26, Iceland's President asked the country's two leftist parties -- the SDA and the Left-Green Movement (LGM) to form a minority coalition with the support of the Progressive Party. The SDA and LGM agreed quickly on the broad outlines of their cabinet and their desire to focus on domestic economic issues ahead of early elections at the end of April. However, talks slowed down over Progressive Party (PP) demands that the economic plan be more detailed. ¶3. (U) On February 1, the SDA and the LGM announced the makeup of their minority coalition with the support of the PP. Current seat allocations in the Althingi (parliament) mean that the SDA and LGM require nearly 100 percent support from the Progressives to pass legislation during the remainder of the legislative session. There are 10 ministers in the cabinet, as opposed to 12 in the previous cabinet. Notably, there are two non-party affiliated ministers: the Minister of Commerce and the Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs. Also of note is the absence of SDA Chair and previous Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, who has announced she will take at least a month of medical leave to recover from treatment for a benign brain tumor. Gisladottir remains SDA Chair, however, and says she has no plans to retire from politics. ¶4. (U) Returning ministers in the government are: Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir (SDA, previously Minister of Social Welfare); Minister for Foreign Affairs and Industry Ossur Skarphedinsson (SDA, previously Minister of Industry); and Minister of Transport and Communications Kristjan Moller. Biographical summaries of the new ministers follow. ¶5. (U) Asta R. Johannesdottir (SDA) is the Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security. She was born in 1949 and has been an MP since 1995, first for the National Awakening party and then for the SDA. She studied Social Sciences and English at the University of Iceland in 1969-1973, but did not graduate. She has also studied German in Germany and taken tourist guide courses at the University of Iceland and in Spain. Johannesdottir has also taken several Management seminars at the University of Iceland and at the Technological Institute of Iceland. Johannesdottir has been a Head of Division at the Social Insurance Administration, a tour guide, a flight attendant, a teacher, a DJ, and has produced radio and television programming for the National Broadcasting Company. ¶6. (U) Steingrimur J. Sigfusson (LGM) is the Minister of Finance, Fisheries, and Agriculture. He was born in 1955 and has been an MP since 1983, first for the People's Alliance and later for the LGM. He studied geology at the University of Iceland and received his teaching certificate from the same university in 1981. In addition to working in his chosen field of geology he was also employed as a television sportscaster for the National Broadcasting Company from 1982 to 1983, when he first won a parliamentary seat in the Althingi as a member of the People's Alliance. He was the Minister of Agriculture and Communications in 1988-1991. Sigfusson founded the Left-Green Movement in 1999 and has been its Chairman since. ¶7. (U) Ogmundur Jonasson (LGM) is the Minister of Health. He was born in 1948 and has been an MP since 1995, first for the People's Alliance and Independents, and then for the LGM. He studied history and political science at the University of Edinburg. He has been a teacher, a reporter for the National Broadcasting Company, and Chairman of the Federation of State and Municipal Employees, one of Iceland's largest labor unions. ¶8. (U) Katrin Jakobsdottir (LGM) is the Minister of Education. She was born in 1976 and has been an MP for the LGM since 2007. Jakobsdottir is Deputy Chair of the LGM. She studied Icelandic language and literature at the University of Iceland. She has been a teacher, a university lecturer, an alternate Reykjavik City Councilor, and has worked as a television producer and journalist. ¶9. (U) Kolbrun Halldorsdottir (LGM) is the Minister for the Environment. She was born in 1955 and has been an MP for the LGM since 1999. Before taking a seat in Parliament, she was a theater REYKJAVIK 00000028 002 OF 002 actor and director. She also worked for the National Broadcasting Company as a radio personality. ¶10. (U) Ragna Arnadottir (non-party affiliated) is the Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs. She was born in 1966 and studied law at the University of Iceland and at Lund University in Sweden. Before becoming minister she worked as an adviser for the Nordic Council, and as a committee secretary for the Parliament. Arnadottir is now on leave from her position as Legal Office Director and Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, but immediately prior to becoming the Minister of Justice she had been seconded to the Prime Minister's Office as an Office Director and Deputy Permanent Secretary. ¶11. (U) Gylfi Magnusson (non-party affiliated) is the Minister of Commerce. He was born in 1966 and studied business administration at the University of Iceland and economics at Yale University. He has worked for the Competition Authority and the University of Iceland Institute of Economics, and he is currently on leave from his position as associate professor of business administration at the University of Iceland. VAN VOORST