Digital News Report- Iceland will soon appoint Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, an openly gay Icelandic politician currently serving as the nation’s Minister for Social Affairs, as Prime Minister. Sigurðardóttir will be the first openly gay politician to serve as Prime Minister of a nation, either appointed or elected. She will also be the first female Prime Minister of Iceland.
She will replace Geir H. Haarde, chairman of the Independence Party, who stepped down after Iceland’s coalition government collapsed in after the banking and financial crisis.
He criticized her appointment due to her economic policies. “Johanna is a very good woman — but she likes public spending, she is a tax raiser,” said Geir.
“Now we need a strong government that works with the people,” said Jóhanna during a press conference. If appointed, she will serve until the election in May. The election is taking place two years ahead of schedule due to the recent government collapse.
An opinion poll conducted in December 2008 found that 73% of 2,000 people surveyed supported Jóhanna. This would make her the country’s most popular prime minister in their government’s history. “It’s a question of trust, people believe that she actually cares about people,” said Olafur Hardarson, a political scientist at the University of Iceland.
She became a labor organizer when she was a flight attendant for Loftleidir Airlines (now Icelandair) in the 1960s and 1970s and was elected to Iceland’s parliament in 1978. She served as social affairs minister from 1987-1994. In 1995, Sigurdardottir quit the party and formed her own, which, when translated, is called the “National Movement” or “Awakening of the Nation.” The new party won four parliamentary seats in a national election.
She rejoined her old party when it merged with three other center-left groups several years later as the Social Democratic Alliance. In 2007 she again became the Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security in Iceland.
“If she is gay, that is not an issue at all,” said Olafur Sigurdsson, deputy chief of mission at the Icelandic Embassy in Washington. “We are very liberal in that sense. It has never been an issue for her as a politician.”
Sigurðardóttir’s partner, Jonina Leosdottir, is a journalist and author. The two became civil partners in 2002. Sigurðardóttir has two adult sons from a previous marriage.