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Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

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Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
24th Prime Minister of Iceland
In office
1 February 2009 – 23 May 2013
PresidentÓlafur Ragnar Grímsson
Preceded byGeir Haarde
Succeeded bySigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security
In office
24 May 2007 – 1 February 2009
Prime MinisterGeir Haarde
Preceded byMagnús Stefánsson (Social Affairs)
Siv Friðleifsdóttir (Health and Social Security)
Succeeded byÁsta Ragnheiður Jóhannesdóttir
In office
8 July 1987 – 24 June 1994
Prime Minister
Preceded byAlexander Stefánsson
Succeeded byGuðmundur Árni Stefánsson
Member of the Althing
In office
25 June 1978 – 27 April 2013
Personal details
Born (1942-10-04) 4 October 1942 (age 81)
Reykjavík, Kingdom of Iceland
Political partySocial Democratic Party (Before 1994)
National Awakening (1994–2000)
Social Democratic Alliance (2000–present)
Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson
(m. 1970; div. 1987)
(m. 2010)
  • 2 sons
  • 1 stepson

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir[1] (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈjouːhana ˈsɪːɣʏrðarˌtouhtɪr̥]; born 4 October 1942) is an Icelandic politician, who served as prime minister of Iceland from 2009 to 2013.

Elected as an MP from 1978 to 2013, she was appointed as Iceland's Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security, serving from 1987 to 1994, and from 2007 until 2009. In 1994, when she lost a bid to head the Social Democratic Party, she raised her fist and declared "Minn tími mun koma!" ("My time will come!"), a phrase that became a popular Icelandic expression.[2][3]

She became prime minister on 1 February 2009, Iceland's first female prime minister and the world's first openly LGBT head of government. Forbes listed her among the 100 most powerful women in the world.[4]

She has been a member of the Althing (Iceland's parliament) for Reykjavík constituencies since 1978, winning re-election on eight successive occasions. In September 2012, Jóhanna announced she would not seek re-election and retired from politics as Iceland's longest serving member of Parliament.[5]

Education and early career[edit]

Jóhanna was born in Reykjavík. Her father was Sigurður Egill Ingimundarson.[6] She studied at the Commercial College of Iceland, a vocational high school operated by the Chamber of Commerce. After graduating with her commercial diploma in 1960, she worked as a flight attendant with Icelandic Airlines (a predecessor of Icelandair) from 1962 to 1971, and as an office manager from 1971 to 1978.[7]

She was active in the trade union movement from early in her professional life, presiding over the Board of the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association in 1966 and 1969 and over the Board of Svölurnar, Association of Former Stewardesses in 1975. She was also a member of the Board of the Commercial Workers' Union from 1976 to 1983.[8]

Political career[edit]

Jóhanna was elected to the Althing in 1978 on the list of the Social Democratic Party for the Reykjavík constituency.[9] She enjoyed early success in her parliamentary career, serving as deputy speaker of the Althing (Iceland's parliament) in 1979 and in 1983–84. She was elected vice-chairman of the Social Democratic Party in 1984, a post she held until 1993. She was also Minister of Social Affairs in four separate Cabinets from 1987 to 1994,[8] when she left the Social Democratic Party after losing the leadership contest to form a new party, National Awakening; the two parties remerged in 2000 to form the present Social Democratic Alliance. Her 1994 declaration Minn tími mun koma! ("My time will come!"), after she lost the contest for the leadership of the Social Democratic party, has become an iconic phrase in the Icelandic language.[2][3]

From 1994 to 2003, she was an active member of the opposition in the Althing, serving on numerous parliamentary committees. After the 2003 elections, in which she stood in the Reykjavík South constituency (after the split of the old Reykjavík constituency), she was re-elected deputy speaker of the Althing. The 2007 elections, in which she stood in the Reykjavík North constituency, saw the return of the Social Democratic Alliance to government in coalition with the Independence Party, and Jóhanna was named Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security.[9]

Prime Minister[edit]

Icelandic financial crisis, protests and elections[edit]

On 26 January 2009, Prime Minister Geir Haarde tendered the coalition government's resignation to the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.[10][11]

After talks with the leaders of the five parties represented in the Althing, the President asked the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement to form a new government and to prepare for elections in the spring.[12]

Jóhanna was proposed as prime minister for the new government; two reasons for this were her popularity among the general public and her good relations with the Left-Green Movement. An opinion poll by Capacent Gallup in December 2008 found 73% approval of her actions as a minister, more than any other member of the cabinet: she was also the only minister to have improved her approval ratings over 2008.[13]

The new government needed the support of the Progressive Party in the Althing.[14] Negotiations continued up to the evening of 31 January, and the new cabinet was appointed on 1 February. Independent polling showed that Jóhanna and Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, leader of the Left-Green Movement, the other party in the coalition government, enjoyed considerable support outside their own parties.[15]

On 25 April 2009, a parliamentary election was held in Iceland,[16] following the protests now known as the Kitchenware Revolution[17] that resulted from the Icelandic financial crisis.[18][19][20][21]

The Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, which formed the outgoing coalition government under Jóhanna, both made gains and together had an overall majority of seats in the Althing. The Progressive Party also made gains, and the new Citizens' Movement, formed after the January 2009 protests, gained four seats. The Independence Party, which had been in power for eighteen years until January 2009, lost a third of its support and nine seats in the Althing. On 10 May 2009, the new government was announced, with Jóhanna staying on as prime minister.[22]

Overcoming the financial crisis[edit]

There were several referendums to decide about the Icesave Icelandic bank debts, center of the country's financial crisis. The first Icesave referendum (Icelandic: Þjóðaratkvæðagreiðsla um Icesave), was held on 6 March 2010.[23]

After the referendum, new negotiations commenced. On 16 February 2011, the Althing agreed to a repayment deal to pay back the full amount starting in 2016, finalising before 2046, with a fixed interest rate of 3%.[24] The Icelandic president once again refused to sign the new deal on 20 February, calling for a new referendum.[25][26] Thus, a second referendum would be held on 9 April 2011 also resulting in "no" victory with a lesser percentage.[27] After the referendum failed to pass, the British and Dutch governments said that they would take the case to the European courts.[28]

At a session on 28 September 2010, the Althing voted 33–30 to indict the former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, but not the other ministers, on charges of negligence in office.[29] He stood trial before the Landsdómur, a special court to hear cases alleging misconduct in government office, used for the first time since it was established in the 1905 Constitution.[30]

New Icelandic constitution process[edit]

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (second from right) and Jónína Leósdóttir (left), on an official visit to Slovenia

Once in power, the left coalition led by Jóhanna—comprising the Social Democratic Alliance, the Left-Green Movement, the Progressive Party and the Liberal Party—inspired largely by the citizen protests, agreed to convene a constitutional assembly to discuss changes to the Constitution, in use since 1905.[31]

Taking its cue from nationwide protests and lobbying efforts by civil organisations, the new governing parties decided that Iceland's citizens should be involved in creating a new constitution and started to debate a bill on 4 November 2009 about that purpose. Parallel to the protests and parliament deliverance, citizens started to unite in grassroots-based think-tanks. A National Forum was organised on 14 November 2009, Þjóðfundur 2009, in the form of an assembly of Icelandic citizens at the Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík, by a group of grassroots citizen movements collectively called "the Anthill". 1,500 people were invited to participate in the assembly; of these, 1,200 were chosen at random from the national registry. On 16 June 2010 the Constitutional Act was finally accepted by parliament and a new Forum was summoned.[32][33] The Constitutional Act prescribed that the participants of the Forum had to be randomly sampled from the National Population Register. The Forum 2010 came into being due to the efforts of both governing parties and the Anthill group. A seven-member Constitutional Committee, appointed by the parliament, was charged with the supervision of the forum and the presentation of its results, while the organization and facilitation of the National Forum 2010 was done by the Anthill group that had organized the first Forum 2009.[citation needed]

The process continued in the election of 25 people of no political affiliation on 26 October 2010. The Supreme Court of Iceland later invalidated the results of the election on 25 January 2011 following complaints about several faults in how the election was conducted,[34][35] but the Parliament decided that it was the manner of the election, and not the results, that had been questioned, and also that those 25 elected candidates would be a part of a Constitutional Council and thus the Constitutional change went on.[36]

On 29 July 2011 the draft was presented to the Parliament,[37] which finally agreed in a vote on 24 May 2012, with 35 in favor and 15 against, to organize an advisory referendum on the Constitutional Council's proposal for a new constitution no later than 20 October 2012. The only opposing parliament members were the former governing right party, the Independence Party. Also a proposed referendum on the discontinuing of accession talks with the European Union by some parliamentarians of the governing left coalition was rejected, with 34 votes against and 25 in favor.[38]

Women's rights and ban on striptease[edit]

In 2010, her government banned strip clubs, paying for nudity in restaurants, and other means of employers profiting from employees' nudity – the first such ban in a Western democratic country. Jóhanna commented: "The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale."[39] Responding to the policy change radical feminist Julie Bindel, writing for The Guardian, stated that Iceland had become the most feminist country in the world.[40] Asked what the most important gender issue today is, she answered "To fight the pay gap between men and women".[41]

Personal life[edit]

Jóhanna married Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson in 1970[42] and the couple had two sons named Sigurður Egill Þorvaldsson and Davíð Steinar Þorvaldsson (born 1972 and 1977).[42]

After their divorce in 1987, she joined in a civil union with Jónína Leósdóttir (born 1954), an author and playwright, in 2002.[2][3][8] In 2010, when same-sex marriage was legalised in Iceland, Jóhanna and Jónína changed their civil union into a marriage, thus becoming one of the first same-sex married couples in Iceland.[43]

In 2017, she released a biography entitled Minn tími ("My Time"). The biography covers one of the most contentious periods in Icelandic history – from the financial crash of autumn 2008, through protests and emergency elections the following year, and the difficult recovery period that followed leading Iceland's left wing government.[44][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This name is usually spelled in English-language press as Johanna Sigurdardottir.
  2. ^ a b c Popham, Peter (29 January 2009). "World gets its first gay leader". The Independent. London, UK. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Gunnarsson, Valur (30 January 2009). "Profile: Johanna Sigurdardottir". The Guardian. London, UK. Archived from the original on 5 September 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  4. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Iceland's PM, its first female premier, says to quit politics". Reuters. 27 September 2012. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  6. ^ Torild, Skard (30 July 2014). Women of Power: Half a Century of Female Presidents and Prime Ministers Worldwide. Policy Press. p. 424. ISBN 978-1-4473-1578-0.
  7. ^ "Short biographies of members of parliament: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir". Alþingi (in Icelandic). 11 February 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir". Prime Minister's Office. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Members of Parliament: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir". Secretariat of Althingi. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  10. ^ "Prime Minister Formally Tenders Government's Resignation". Prime Minister's Office. 26 January 2009. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Iceland's coalition government resigns". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 26 January 2009. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  12. ^ "New Icelandic government under negotiation". IceNews. 27 January 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Sigurdardóttir Ready to Become Iceland's PM". Iceland Review. 27 January 2009. Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  14. ^ Hörður Kristjánsson (1 February 2009). "Ríkisstjórn Jóhönnu Sigurðardóttur tekur við völdum klukkan sex í dag". Viðskiptablaðið (in Icelandic). Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  15. ^ "New Icelandic government still popular". Ice News. 17 February 2009. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Kosningar 9. maí og Geir hættir" [Elections May 9 and Geir quits]. RÚV (in Icelandic). 23 January 2009. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  17. ^ Phillips, Leigh (27 April 2009). "Iceland Turns Left and Edges Toward EU". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Iceland announces early election". BBC News. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  19. ^ Moody, Jonas (30 January 2009). "Iceland Picks the World's First Openly Gay PM". TIME. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  20. ^ "First gay PM for Iceland cabinet". BBC News. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  21. ^ "Johanna Sigurdardottir". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  22. ^ "New Government Agreement for Iceland Announced". Iceland Review. 10 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  23. ^ "Icesave referendum set for 6 March". BBC News. 19 January 2010. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  24. ^ "IJslandse parlement stemt in met Icesave-deal" [Icelandic parliament approves Icesave deal]. NU.nl (in Dutch). 16 February 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  25. ^ Kollewe, Julia (20 February 2011). "Iceland president triggers referendum on Icesave repayments". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  26. ^ "President IJsland tekent Icesave-akkoord niet" [President of Iceland does not sign Icesave agreement]. NU.nl (in Dutch). 20 February 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  27. ^ "Iceland to hold April referendum on overseas bank compensation plan". Monsters and Critics. 25 February 2011. Archived from the original on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  28. ^ "Iceland government says not threatened by referendum defeat". MSN. 11 April 2011. Archived from the original on 4 April 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  29. ^ "Iceland's Former PM Taken to Court". Iceland Review. 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 25 March 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  30. ^ "Islands tidligere statsminister stilles for riksrett" [Iceland's former prime minister prepared for impeachment]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Oslo, Norway. NTB. 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 1 October 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  31. ^ "Iceland to Convene Constitutional Parliament". Iceland Review. 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  32. ^ "Act on a Constitutional Assembly" (PDF). Thjodfundur 2010. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  33. ^ "The main conclusions from the National Forum 2010". Thjodfundur 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  34. ^ "Kosning til stjórnlagaþings ógild" [Election to the Constitutional Assembly invalid]. Morgunblaðið. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  35. ^ "Ákvörðun Hæstaréttar" [Supreme Court decision]. Hæstiréttur Íslands (in Icelandic). 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  36. ^ "Constitutional Assembly Elects Appointed to Council". Iceland Review. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  37. ^ "The Constitutional Council hands over the bill for a new constitution". Stjórnlagaráð. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  38. ^ "Referendum to Be Held on Icelandic Constitution". Iceland Review. 25 May 2012. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  39. ^ Clark-Flory, Tracy (26 March 2010). "Iceland's stripping ban". Salon. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  40. ^ Bindel, Julie (25 March 2010). "Iceland: the world's most feminist country". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  41. ^ Sigurðardóttir, Guðrún Helga (8 March 2012). "Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir: The gender pay gap is now the most important equality issue". Nordic Labour Journal. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  42. ^ a b "Æviágrip: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir". Alþingi (in Icelandic). 2 February 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2019. M. 1. (28. febr. 1970) Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson (f. 3. mars 1944) bankastarfsmaður í Reykjavík. Þau skildu.
  43. ^ "Iceland PM weds as gay marriage legalised". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  44. ^ Fontaine, Paul (16 November 2017). "Iceland's First Woman PM Releases Biography". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  45. ^ Hilmarsdóttir, Sunna Kristín (16 November 2017). "Síðasta samtal Jóhönnu og Davíðs: "Ég varð um tíma að halda símtólinu vel frá mér, svo æstur var hann"". Vísir.is (in Icelandic). Retrieved 23 March 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Minister of Social Affairs Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Minister of Health and Social Security
Preceded by Prime Minister of Iceland
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Social Democratic Alliance
Succeeded by
  1. ^ "Þingmenn og embætti". Alþingi (in Icelandic).