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Politics of Iceland

Government The president, elected to a 4-year term, has limited powers. The prime minister and cabinet exercise most executive functions. The Althing is composed of 63 members, elected every 4 years unless it is dissolved sooner. Suffrage for presidential and parliamentary elections is universal, and members of the Althing are elected on the basis of proportional representation from eight constituencies. The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, district courts, and various special courts. The constitution protects the judiciary from infringement by the other two branches.

In nationwide town council elections in 1994, government coalition partners, the conservative Independence Party (IP), and the Social Democrat Party (SDP) lost support throughout the country, including the capital Reykjavik, which the IP had controlled for more than a half-century. In losing four seats in the April 1995 parliamentary elections, the IP and SDP mustered a simple majority in the 63-seat Althing. However, Prime Minister and IP leader Oddsson chose the resurgent Progressive Party as a more conservative partner to form a stronger and more stable majority with 40 seats. Splintered by factionalism over the economy and Iceland's role in the European Union (EU), the SDP also suffered from being the only party to support Iceland's EU membership application. Nonetheless, Icelandic policy toward the U.S. has remained unchanged.

After four 4-year terms as the world's first and only elected woman president, the widely popular Vigdís Finnbogadóttir chose not to run for re-election in 1996. More than 86% of voters turned out in the June 29, 1997 presidential elections to give former leftist party chairman Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson a 41% plurality and relatively comfortable 12% victory margin over the closest of three other candidates. Traditionally limited to 6-12 weeks, Iceland's campaign season was marked by several intensely personal attacks on Grímsson, a former finance minister who tried to erase memories of his controversial support of inflationary policies and opposition to the U.S. military presence at the NATO base in Keflavík. Grímsson successfully has used his largely ceremonial office to promote Icelandic trade abroad and family values at home.

In May 8 parliamentary elections, the ruling, conservative Independence Party gained one seat for a total of 26 of 63 seats in the Althing. Its continued coalition partner, the Progressive Party, lost three seats for a total of 12. The newly established United Left took 17 seats, and the Left-Green alliance garnered six. In a surprise, the Liberal Party won two seats. More than 84% of the electorate came out to vote, which actually fell from over 87% in the 1995 election. Women now hold three ministries and account for 22 of 63 parliamentarians.

Parties in Government Independence Party (IP) 26
Progressive Party (PP) 12

Parties in opposition

Liberal Party (WL) 02
Social Democratic Alliance (UL) 17
Left-Green Movement (LG) 06

Total 63

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lığveldiğ Ísland
local short form: Ísland

Data code: IC

Government type: constitutional republic

Capital: Reykjavik

Administrative divisions: 23 counties (sıslur, singular sısla) and 14 independent towns* (kaupstadir, singular kaupstadhur); Akranes[?]*, Akureyri*, Árnessısla[?], Austur-Barğastrandarsısla[?], Austur-Húnavatnssısla[?], Austur-Skaftafellssısla[?], Borgarfjarğarsısla[?], Dalasısla[?], Eyjafjarğarsısla[?], Gullbringusısla[?], Hafnarfjörğur[?]*, Húsavík[?]*, Ísafjörğur[?]*, Keflavík[?]*, Kjósarsısla[?], Kópavogur[?]*, Mırasısla[?], Neskaupstağur[?]*, Norğur-Ísafjarğarsısla[?], Norğur-Múlasısla[?], Norğur-Şingeyjarsısla[?], Ólafsfjörğur[?]*, Rangárvallasısla[?], Reykjavík*, Sauğárkrókur[?]*, Seyğisfjörğur[?]*, Siglufjörğur[?]*, Skagafjarğarsısla[?], Snæfellsnes- og Hnappadalssısla[?], Strandasısla[?], Sudur-Múlasısla[?], Suğur-Şingeyjarsısla[?], Vestmannaeyjar[?]*, Vestur-Barğastrandarsısla[?], Vestur-Húnavatnssısla[?], Vestur-Ísafjarğarsısla[?], Vestur-Skaftafellssısla[?]

Independence: 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)

National holiday: Anniversary of the Establishment of the Republic, 17 June (1944)

Constitution: 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944

Legal system: civil law system based on Danish law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson (since 1 August 1996). See also: List of Presidents of Iceland
head of government: Prime Minister Davíğ Oddsson[?] (since 30 April 1991). See also: List of Prime Ministers of Iceland
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held June 1996 (next to be held by June 2004); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson elected president; percent of vote - 41.4%

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 8 May 1999 (next to be held by April 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA

Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Hæstiréttur, justices are appointed for life by the president

Political parties and leaders: Sjálfstædisflokkurinn (Independence Party, conservative/centrist) [Davíd ODDSSON]; Samfylkingin (Social Democratic Alliance, social democratic) [Össur SKARPHÉĞINSSON]; Vinstri hreyfingin - grænt frambod (Left-Green Movement, left socialist) [Steingrímur J. SIGFÚSSON]; Frjálslyndi flokkurinn (Liberal Party, centrist) [Sverrir HERMANNSSON]; Framsóknarflokkurinn (Progressive Party, liberal) [Halldór ÁSGRÍMSSON];

International organization participation: Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EFTA, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA[?] (observer), IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NATO, NC, NEA[?], NIB[?], OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNU, UPU, WEU (associate), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Helgi ÁGÚSTSSON (2002)
chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Barbara GRIFFITHS
embassy: Laufásvegur 21, Reykjavik
mailing address: US Embassy, PSC 1003, Box 40, FPO AE 09728-0340
telephone: [354] 5629100
FAX: [354] 5629118

Flag description: blue with a red cross outlined in white that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag)

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