President of Iceland

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President of Iceland
Forseti Íslands
Icelandic Presidential.svg
Coat of arms of the President of Iceland.svg
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland
Incumbent
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson

since 1 August 2016
Office of the President
Member of State Council of Iceland
Residence Bessastaðir
Seat Garðabær, Capital Region
Term length Four years
Renewable indefinitely as long as the incumbent wins presidential elections or is uncontested.
Constituting instrument Constitution of Iceland
Precursor King of Iceland
Formation 17 June 1944
First holder Sveinn Björnsson
Succession Collective
President of the Parliament, Prime Minister and President of the Supreme Court.
Salary 2,480,341 ISK monthly (2017)
Website english.forseti.is (English)
forseti.is (Icelandic)
Coat of arms of Iceland.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Iceland
Constitution

The President of Iceland (Icelandic: Forseti Íslands) is Iceland's elected head of state. The incumbent is Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, who is now in his first term as President, elected in 2016.

The President is elected to a four-year term by popular vote, is not term-limited, and has limited powers. The presidential residence is situated in Bessastaðir in Garðabær, near the capital city Reykjavík.

Origin[edit]

When Iceland became a republic in 1944 by the passing of a new constitution the position of King of Iceland was simply replaced by President of Iceland. A transitional provision of the new constitution stipulated that the first President be elected by the Parliament.

Etymology of Forseti[edit]

Main article: Forseti

Etymology of the word Forseti from Old Norse is "the presiding one" and it is the name of one of Æsir gods, i.e. the one of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology. He is generally identified with Fosite, a god of the Frisians.

Powers and duties[edit]

Executive powers[edit]

Cabinet[edit]

The President appoints ministers to the Cabinet of Iceland, determines their number and division of assignments. Ministers are not able to resign and must be discharged by the President. The ministers are delegated the President's executive powers and are solely responsible for their actions.

In the aftermath of general elections, the President has the role to designate a party leader (the one that the President considers most likely to be able to form a majority coalition government) to formally start negotiations to form a government.[1] Sveinn Björnsson and Ásgeir Ásgeirsson played highly active roles in the formation of governments, attempting to set up governments that suited their political preferences, whereas Kristján Eldjárn and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir were passive and neutral as to individuals and parties comprising the government.[2]

State Council[edit]

The President and the Cabinet meet in the State Council. The Cabinet must inform the President of important matters of the state and drafted bills. During meetings the Cabinet may also suggest convening, adjourning or dissolving the Parliament.

Prosecution and pardoning[edit]

The President can decide that the prosecution for an offense be discontinued and can also grants pardon and amnesty.

Legislative powers[edit]

Article 2 of the constitution states that the President and the Parliament jointly exercise the legislative power. The President signs bills passed by the Parliament into law and can chose not to sign them, thus in effect vetoing them. Bills vetoed by the President do take effect immediately, should the Parliament not withdraw them, but they must be confirmed in a referendum. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (1996–2016) is the only President to have vetoed legislation from the Parliament, having done so on three occasions (2004, 2010, 2011). This power was originally intended to be used only in extremely extenuating circumstances.[3]

The President has the power to submit bills and resolutions to the Parliament which it must take under consideration. Should the Parliament not be in session the President can issue provisional laws which must conform with the constitution. Provisional laws become void if the Parliament does not confirmed them when it convenes. No President has ever submitted bills nor resolutions, nor issued provisional laws.

Article 30 of the constitution states that the President can grant exceptions from laws. No President has ever exercised this authority.

Parliament[edit]

The President convenes the Parliament after general elections and dissolves it. He can temporarily adjourn its sessions and move them if he deems so necessary. Furthermore the President opens all regular sessions of the Parliament each year.

Ceremonial duties[edit]

The President is the designated grand master of the Order of the Falcon.

Compensation[edit]

The President receives a monthly salary of 2,480,341 ISK. Article 9 of the constitution states the salary can not be lowered for an incumbent President.

Residence[edit]

Article 12 of the constitution states that the President shall reside in or near Reykjavík. Since inception the official residence of the President has been Bessastaðir which is in Garðabær.

Eligibility[edit]

Articles 4 and 5 of the constitution set the following qualifications for holding the presidency:

  • meet the qualifications specified for parliamentarians
  • be at least thirty-five years old
  • have at least 1,500 commendations

Succession[edit]

Articles 7 and 8 of the constitution state that when the President dies or is otherwise unable to perform his duties, such as when he is abroad or sick, the Prime Minister, the President of the Parliament and the President of the Supreme Court shall collectively assume the power of the office. Their meetings are lead by the President of the Parliament where they vote on any presidential decisions. The presidential term is completed and a new President is elected by the general public.

Impeachment[edit]

Article 11 of the constitution lays out the process by which the President can be removed from office. It states that the President does not bear responsibility for the actions of his government and that he can not be prosecuted without consent of the Parliament. A referendum instigated by the Parliament with 3/4 support must approve of his removal. Once the Parliament has approved of the referendum, the President must temporarily step aside until the results of the referendum are known. The referendum must be held within two months of the vote, and, should the removal be rejected by the people, then the Parliament must immediately be dissolved and a new general election held.

An impeachment has not occurred since the founding of the republic.

List[edit]

There have been six Presidents since the establishment of the republic.

Term: 1 appointed · 2 died in office · 3 uncontested

President Took office Left office Duration Term Prime ministers
1 Sveinn Björnsson.jpg Sveinn Björnsson
(1881–1952)
17 June 1944 25 January 19522 7 years, 7 months, 8 days
(2,778 days)
1 (1944)1 Björn Þórðarson
Ólafur Thors
Stefán Jóhann Stefánsson
Ólafur Thors
Steingrímur Steinþórsson
2 (1945)3
3 (1949)3
Regent of Iceland 1941–1944, later became the first President of Iceland. In 1950 considered forming a government that did not rely on parliamentary support after leaders of the parliamentary parties had reached an impasse. The only President to die in office; this led to a vacancy, the powers of the office being constitutionally vested jointly in the prime minister (Steingrímur Steinþórsson), the President of the Parliament (Jón Pálmason) and the President of the Supreme Court (Jón Ásbjörnsson).
2 Asgeir Asgeirsson.jpg Ásgeir Ásgeirsson
(1894–1972)
1 August 1952 1 August 1968 16 years
(5,844 days)
4 (1952) Steingrímur Steinþórsson
Ólafur Thors
Hermann Jónasson
Emil Jónsson
Ólafur Thors
Bjarni Benediktsson
Ólafur Thors
Bjarni Benediktsson
5 (1956)3
6 (1960)3
7 (1964)3
First president elected by popular vote.
3 Kristján Eldjárn (1982).jpg Kristján Eldjárn
(1916–1982)
1 August 1968 1 August 1980 12 years
(4,383 days)
8 (1968) Bjarni Benediktsson
Jóhann Hafstein
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Geir Hallgrímsson
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Benedikt Sigurðsson Gröndal
Gunnar Thoroddsen
9 (1972)3
10 (1976)3
At one point considered forming a government that did not rely on parliamentary support after leaders of the parliamentary parties had reached an impasse.
4 Vigdis Finnbogadottir (1985).jpg Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
(1930–)
1 August 1980 1 August 1996 16 years
(5,844 days)
11 (1980) Gunnar Thoroddsen
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Davíð Oddsson
12 (1984)3
13 (1988)
14 (1992)3
Was the world's first elected female president and overwhelmingly won a contested election in 1988.
5 Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, September 2011 (cropped).jpeg Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
(1943–)
1 August 1996 1 August 2016 20 years
(7,305 days)
15 (1996) Davíð Oddsson
Halldór Ásgrímsson
Geir Haarde
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
16 (2000)3
17 (2004)
18 (2008)3
19 (2012)
First to use the constitutional authorisation to deny signing a law from the parliament, thus sending the law to a national referendum, on three occasions.
6

President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson September 2016.jpg

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson
(1968–)
1 August 2016 Incumbent 205 days
(205 days)
20 (2016) Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Bjarni Benediktsson

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hvað gerir forseti Íslands og hvaða völd hefur hann?". Vísindavefurinn. Retrieved 2016-12-31. 
  2. ^ Jóhannesson, Guðni Th. (2016). Fyrstu forsetarnir. p. 196. 
  3. ^ Jóhannesson, Guðni Th. (2016). Fyrstu forsetarnir. p. 57. 

External links[edit]