Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK53, ICELAND: FORMER FM GISLADOTTIR PULLS OUT OF ELECTIONS;
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|09REYKJAVIK53||2009-03-09 16:04||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
VZCZCXRO4348 OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHRK #0053 0681647 ZNR UUUUU ZZH O 091647Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4022 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000053 SIPDIS SENSITIVE STATE FOR EUR/NB, INR-B E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PINR IC SUBJECT: ICELAND: FORMER FM GISLADOTTIR PULLS OUT OF ELECTIONS; PRIME MINISTER TO LEAD SOCIAL DEMS? Ref: Reykjavik 28 and previous ¶1. (U) Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) Chair and former Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir announced late on Sunday, 8 March that she will not be running for reelection as party chair nor as a member of the Althingi in the elections on April 25. Gisladottir, who was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor last September and has undergone two major operations as well as radiation treatment, has been recuperating since early February when the current SDA-Left Green government was announced (reftel). Though at that time Gisladottir retained her seat as SDA Chair, she did not take a ministerial post and instead put forward current Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir as her party's senior representative in the government. In announcing her withdrawal, Gisladottir said her medical recovery has been slower than expected and demands all her energy at present. In a TV interview on 7 March, she specifically referred to severe vertigo, and said the following night that she also has difficulty concentrating. ¶2. (U) Gisladottir's health has been a looming question mark for her party since it became clear in January that she was in worse shape than earlier reported. A week ago, she barely met the registration deadline for the SDA's March 14 Reykjavik primary, but apparently reconsidered her decision over the past week. Her announcement leaves the SDA floundering with just weeks before its national congress kicks off on March 27. PM Sigurdardottir has thus far resisted pressure to run for SDA Chair, and the only other declared candidate is former FM and Ambassador to the U.S. Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Industry Ossur Skarphedinsson declared again on March 9 that he has no plans to campaign for a leadership role in the party. ¶3. (SBU) Political commentators speculate that Sigurdardottir will now come under intense pressure from party insiders to run as chair and provide the SDA with some leadership. Leading daily newspaper Morgunbladid noted this possibility in its March 9 editorial, while also speculating that despite Sigurdardottir's tremendous popularity and 65 percent approval rating with the public, she will not have Gisladottir's ability to unify the SDA around a single vision. That said, one close observer of SDA politics told PolOff that she believes Sigurdardottir will be left with little choice but to run for party chair, perhaps for a shortened two-year term. The party knows too well that the 70 year old Hannibalsson "belongs to the last century," and that Sigurdardottir is the only reasonable possibility given the short time left to choose a leader before April. VAN VOORST