Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (pronounced [jo͡uːhanːa ˈsɪːɣʏrðarto͡uhtɪr]), (born 4 October 1942), is the current Prime Minister of Iceland. An MP since 1978, she was previously Iceland's Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security from 1987–1994 and 2007–2009. She has been a member of the Althing (Iceland's parliament) for Reykjavík constituencies since 1978, winning re-election on eight successive occasions. She became Iceland's first female Prime Minister and the world's first openly lesbian head of government on 1 February 2009.
Jóhanna is a social democrat and Iceland's longest-serving member of Parliament. In the 1990s, 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. In 2009, Forbes listed her among the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world. In September 2012, Jóhanna announced she would not seek re-election and would instead retire from politics.
Education and early career
Jóhanna was born in Reykjavík and 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 Loftleiðir (a predecessor of Icelandair) and as an office worker. 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.
Jóhanna was elected to the Althing in 1978 on the list of the Social Democratic Party for the Reykjavík constituency. She enjoyed early success in her parliamentary career, serving as deputy speaker of the Althing 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, 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.
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.
Icelandic financial crisis, protests and elections
On 26 January 2009, Prime Minister Geir Haarde tendered the coalition government's resignation to the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The move followed fourteen weeks of protests over the government's handling of the financial crisis, protests which had intensified from 20 January.
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.
Jóhanna was proposed as Prime Minister for the new government, among other things because of 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.
The new government needed the support of the Progressive Party in the Althing. 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.
On 25 April 2009, a parliamentary election was held in Iceland, following the protests now known as the Kitchenware Revolution that resulted from the Icelandic financial crisis. The Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, which formed the outgoing coalition government under Jóhanna, both made gains and now together have an overall majority of seats in the Althing (Iceland's parliament). 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.
Overcoming the financial crisis
There were several referenda 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. The referendum was resoundingly defeated, with 93% voting against and less than 2% in favor.
After the referendum, new negotiations commenced. On 16 February 2011 the Icelandic parliament agreed to a repayment deal to pay back the full amount starting in 2016, finalising before 2046, with a fixed interest rate of 3%. The Icelandic president once again refused to sign the new deal on 20 February, calling for a new referendum. Thus, a second referendum would be held on 9 April 2011 also resulting in "no" victory with a lesser percentage. After the referendum failed to pass, the British and Dutch governments said that they would take the case to the European courts.[dead link]
Also, the Althing (Iceland's parliament) voted 33–30 to indict the former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, but not the other ministers, on charges of negligence in office at a session on 28 September 2010 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.
Iceland new constitution process
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.
Taking its cue from nation-wide 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 (Icelandic: Þjóðfundur 2009), in the form of an assembly of Icelandic citizens at the Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík, by a group of grassroots citizen movements such as 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. The Constitutional Act prescribed that the participants of the Forum had to be randomly sampled from the National Population Register. The Forum 2010 came in to being due to the efforts of both governing parties and the Anthill group. A seven-headed 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.
The process continued in the election of 25 people of no political sign 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., but the Parliament decided that it was the way, and not the elects, that had been questioned, and also that those 25 elects would be a part of a Constitutional Council and thus the Constitutional change went on.
In 29 July 2011 the draft was presented to the Parliament, which finally agreed in a vote in 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 October 20, 2012. The only opposing parliament members were the former governing right party, the Independence Party. Also a proposed referendum on the discontinuing accession talks with the European Union by some parliamentaries of the governing left coalition was rejected, with 34 votes against and 25 in favor.
In 2010, after her government banned strip clubs, paying for nudity in restaurants, and other means of employers profiting from employees' nudity, Jóhanna said "The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.". After the decision was made she was hailed by her fellow feminists with Julie Bindel claiming Iceland has become the most feminist country in the world.
Jóhanna married Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson in 1970 and the couple had two sons named Sigurður Egill and Davíð Steinar. (born 1972 and 1977).
After their divorce in 1987, she joined in a civil union with Jónína Leósdóttir (born 1954), an author and playwright, in 2002. 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.
- This name is usually spelled in English-language press as Johanna Sigurdardottir.
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