Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (born 14 May 1943) is the fifth and current President of Iceland. He has served as President since 1996; he was unopposed in 2000, re-elected for a third term in 2004, and re-elected unopposed for a fourth term in 2008.

Early Life
Ólafur was born in Ísafjörður, Iceland. From 1962 to 1970, he studied economics and political science at the University of Manchester; in 1970 he was the first person from Iceland to earn a PhD in political science. He became a lecturer in political science at the University of Iceland in 1970, then a Professor of Political Science at the same university in 1973. He was the University's first Professor of Political Science.

In 1984, he participated, along with other three left-wing intellectuals, in a debate with the known economist Milton Friedman, who was in Iceland to give a lecture on the "tyranny of the status quo" at the University of Iceland.

Political career
As part of the left-wing People's Alliance, Ólafur was a Member of Althing for Reykjavík from 1978 to 1983; during this time he was Chairman of the People's Alliance parliamentary group from 1980 to 1983. Subsequently, he was Chairman of the People's Alliance executive committee from 1983 to 1987; additionally, from 1983 to 1985 he was editor of a newspaper, Þjóðviljinn. From 1987 to 1995, he was Leader of the People's Alliance; during this time, he served as Minister of Finance from 1988 to 1991 and as a Member of Althing for Reykjanes from 1991 to 1996.

As member of the Althing, Ólafur was among the most controversial politicians in Iceland. Originally elected as President from a field of four candidates with 42% of the total votes, Ólafur has from the outset been a controversial figure in the office of President, an office that has mainly ceremonial functions meant to symbolise national unity and bears little responsibility for government affairs.

He married Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir in 1974, who gave birth to twin daughters the following year, Guðrún Tinna, a graduate in Business Studies, and Svanhildur Dalla, a graduate both in Political Science and Law. Guðrún Katrín was a popular figure in Iceland, and the country mourned when she passed away after a fight with leukaemia in 1998.

Ólafur's second marriage was to Israeli-born Dorrit Moussaieff, to whom he became engaged in May 2000. The wedding took place on his 60th birthday, 14 May 2003, in a private ceremony held at the presidential residence.

They have a dog, Sámur, who is named after the dog of Gunnar of Hlíðarendi, one of the main characters in the Icelandic family saga Njála.

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