Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Jóhanna.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
24th Prime Minister of Iceland
In office
1 February 2009  23 May 2013
President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Preceded by Geir Haarde
Succeeded by Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security
In office
24 May 2007  1 February 2009
Prime Minister Geir Haarde
Preceded by Magnús Stefánsson (Social Affairs)
Siv Friðleifsdóttir (Health and Social Security)
Succeeded by Ásta Ragnheiður Jóhannesdóttir
In office
8 July 1987  24 June 1994
Prime Minister Þorsteinn Pálsson
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Davíð Oddsson
Preceded by Alexander Stefánsson
Succeeded by Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson
Personal details
Born (1942-10-04) 4 October 1942
Reykjavík, Iceland
Political party Social Democratic Party (Before 1994)
National Awakening (1994–2000)
Social Democratic Alliance (2000–present)
Spouse(s) Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson (1970–1987)
Jónína Leósdóttir (2010–present)
Children 2 sons
1 stepson

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir[1] (Icelandic pronunciation: [jou̯ːhana ˈsɪːɣʏrðartou̯htɪr]; born 4 October 1942) is a former politician and the former Prime Minister of Iceland. She became active in the trade union movement, serving as an officer. Elected an MP from 1978 to 2013, she was appointed as Iceland's Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security, serving 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.[2][3]

Jóhanna is a social democrat. Until her retirement from elective office in 2012 she was Iceland's longest-serving member of Parliament. In 1994, 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.[4][5] In 2009, she finally became Prime Minister and Forbes listed her among the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world.[6] In September 2012, Jóhanna announced she would not seek re-election and would retire from politics.[7]

Education and early career

Jóhanna was born in Reykjavík. Her father is Sigurður Egill Ingimundarson.[8] She 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.[9]

Political career

Jóhanna was elected to the Althing in 1978 on the list of the Social Democratic Party for the Reykjavík constituency.[10] She enjoyed early success in her parliamentary career, serving as deputy speaker of the Althing (Iceland's parliament) 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,[9] 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.[4][5]

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.[10]

Prime Minister

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.[11][12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

On 25 April 2009, a parliamentary election was held in Iceland,[16] following the protests now known as the Kitchenware Revolution[17] that resulted from the Icelandic financial crisis.[18] 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. 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.[19]

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.[20] The proposal 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%.[21] The Icelandic president once again refused to sign the new deal on 20 February, calling for a new referendum.[22][23] Thus, a second referendum would be held on 9 April 2011 also resulting in "no" victory with a lesser percentage.[24] After the referendum failed to pass, the British and Dutch governments said that they would take the case to the European courts.[25]

Also, the Althing 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.[26] 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.[27] He was convicted of one charge.

New Icelandic constitution process

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (second from right) and Jónína Leósdóttir (left), on an official visit to Slovenia

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.[28]

Taking its cue from nationwide 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, Þjóðfundur 2009, in the form of an assembly of Icelandic citizens at the Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík, by a group of grassroots citizen movements collectively called "the 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.[29][30] The Constitutional Act prescribed that the participants of the Forum had to be randomly sampled from the National Population Register. The Forum 2010 came into 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 affiliation 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,[31][32] but the Parliament decided that it was the manner of the election, and not the results, that had been questioned, and also that those 25 elected candidates would be a part of a Constitutional Council and thus the Constitutional change went on.[33]

On 29 July 2011 the draft was presented to the Parliament,[34] which finally agreed in a vote on 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 20 October 2012. The only opposing parliament members were the former governing right party, the Independence Party. Also a proposed referendum on the discontinuing of accession talks with the European Union by some parliamentarians of the governing left coalition was rejected, with 34 votes against and 25 in favor.[35]

Women's rights and ban on striptease

In 2010, her government banned strip clubs, paying for nudity in restaurants, and other means of employers profiting from employees' nudity - the first such ban in a Western democratic country. Jóhanna commented; "The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale."[36] 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.[37] Asked what the most important gender issue today is, she answered "To fight the pay gap between men and women".[38]

Personal life

Jóhanna married Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson in 1970[39] and the couple had two sons named Sigurður Egill Þorvaldsson and Davíð Steinar Þorvaldsson (born 1972 and 1977).[40]

After their divorce in 1987, she joined in a civil union with Jónína Leósdóttir (born 1954), an author and playwright, in 2002.[4][5][9] 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.[41]


  1. This name is usually spelled in English-language press as Johanna Sigurdardottir.
  2. Moody, Jonas (30 January 2009). "Iceland Picks the World's First Openly Gay PM". Time. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  3. "First gay PM for Iceland cabinet". BBC News. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 Peter Popham (29 January 2009), "World gets its first gay leader", The Independent, UK
  5. 1 2 3 Valur Gunnarsson (30 January 2009), "Profile: Johanna Sigurdardottir", The Guardian, UK
  6. "The 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes.
  7. Reuters (27 September 2012). "Iceland's PM, its first female premier, says to quit politics". Reuters.com. Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  8. Torild, Skard (30 July 2014). Women of power: Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Policy Press. p. 424. ISBN 978-1-4473-1578-0.
  9. 1 2 3 Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Prime Minister's Office, retrieved 2 February 2009
  10. 1 2 Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Secretariat of Althingi, retrieved 28 January 2009
  11. Prime Minister Formally Tenders Government's Resignation, Prime Minister's Office, 26 January 2009
  12. Iceland's coalition government resigns, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 January 2009
  13. New Icelandic government under negotiation, IceNews, 27 January 2009
  14. Sigurdardóttir Ready to Become Iceland's PM, Iceland Review, 27 January 2009
  15. "New Icelandic government still popular". IceNews. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  16. Kosningar 9. maí og Geir hættir, RÚV, 23 January 2009. (Icelandic)
  17. Bloomberg Business Week, Iceland Turns Left and Edges Toward EU Archived 23 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Leigh Phillips, 27 April 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  18. Iceland announces early election, BBC News, 23 January 2009
  19. "Iceland Review Online: Daily News from Iceland, Current Affairs, Business, Politics, Sports, Culture". Icelandreview.com. 6 December 2005. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  20. "Icesave referendum set for 6 March". BBC News. 19 January 2010. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  21. IJslandse parlement stemt in met Icesave-deal nu.nl, 16 februari 2011
  22. Iceland president triggers referendum on Icesave repayments by Julia Kollewe, The Guardian 20 February 2011
  23. President IJsland tekent Icesave-akkoord niet nu.nl, 20 februari 2011
  24. "Iceland to hold April referendum on overseas bank compensation plan". Monsters and Critics. 25 February 2011. Archived from the original on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  25. "Iceland government says not threatened by referendum defeat". MSN. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  26. "Iceland's Former PM Taken to Court". Iceland Review Online. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  27. "Islands tidligere statsminister stilles for riksrett". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Oslo, Norway. NTB. 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 1 October 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  28. "Iceland to Convene Constitutional Parliament", Iceland Review, 30 January 2009, retrieved 17 October 2011
  29. http://www.thjodfundur2010.is/other_files/2010/doc/Act-on-a-Constitutional-Assembly.pdf
  30. "Þjóðfundur 2010 – Fréttir – The main conclusions from the National Forum 2010". Thjodfundur2010.is. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  31. "Kosning til stjórnlagaþings ógild".
  32. "Hæstiréttur Íslands".
  33. "Constitutional Assembly Elects Appointed to Council – Iceland Review O". Icelandreview.com. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  34. "Stjórnlagaráð 2011 – English". Stjornlagarad.is. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  35. "Referendum to Be Held on Icelandic Constitution". Iceland Review.
  36. Sirota, David (26 March 2010). "Iceland's stripping ban – Broadsheet". Salon.com. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  37. "Iceland: the world's most feminist country". The Guardian. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  38. "Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir: The gender pay gap is now the most important equality issue".
  39. "Alþingi – Æviágrip: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir" (in Icelandic). 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2009. M. 1. (28. febr. 1970) Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson (f. 3. mars 1944) bankastarfsmaður í Reykjavík. Þau skildu.
  40. "Þingtíðindi". Alþingi.
  41. "Iceland PM weds as gay marriage legalised". The Telegraph. London. 28 June 2010.


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Political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Stefánsson
Minister of Social Affairs
Succeeded by
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Preceded by
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as Minister of Social Affairs
Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security
Succeeded by
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Preceded by
Siv Friðleifsdóttir
as Minister of Health and Social Security
Preceded by
Geir Haarde
Prime Minister of Iceland
Succeeded by
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Preceded by
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Succeeded by
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