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Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK28, ICELAND: LEFTIST GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER THE REINS; BIO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09REYKJAVIK28 2009-02-05 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO4023
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRK #0028/01 0361723
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051723Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3976
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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