power is vested in the President and Government, while legislative
authority rests mutually with the President and the 63 member Alþing
(Parliament). Both are elected for 4 year terms. The Alþing
has recently been reduced from 2 houses to 1.
The Icelantic government is republic. Iceland gained
full independence from Denmark in 1944.
The Head of State has been President Ólafur
Ragnar Grimsson since 1996. The Head of Government
has been Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson
At the General Election in April 1991, the Independence
Party (IP) emerged as the biggest grouping in the Alþing
and formed a coalition administration with the smaller SDP. The
ex Mayor of Reykjavík, David Oddsson, who had effectively
taken over the leadership of the IP, was made Prime Minister. Oddsson
was re elected at the 1995 General Election, but a decline in support
for the IP later required him to form a coalition administration
with the Progressive Party (PP). At the most recent poll in 2003,
Oddsson reserved his position as Prime Minister in coalition Government.
However, in 2004, Oddsson handed over premiership to former Foreign
Minister Halldor Asgrimsson.
Meanwhile, Icelandic foreign policy
is dominated by 2 factors, fishing and relations with Atlantic powers.
Iceland is a member of NATO, the Nordic Council and of the Council
of Europe. Ties with NATO have been loosening since before the end
of the Cold War, in May 1985, the Alþing declared Iceland
a nuclear free zone – and this process has accelerated since
the reduction of the large NATO base at Keflavik. Iceland has historically
avoided membership of the European Union but, since Finland, Sweden
and Denmark have joined up, it is Iceland’s opposition to
the EU’s fisheries policy of stock management by quotas that
is now the decisive influence.
Both major parties strongly oppose the Common Fisheries
Policy, so it seems unlikely that Iceland will apply for
EU membership in the predictable future. On the issue of whaling,
Iceland has been among the few objecting to the International Whaling
Commission’s (IWC) ban, in 1992, the Government withdrew from
the IWC. In 2001, it applied to rejoin however, having declared
its intention to resume commercial whaling, was only granted observer
Executive power is vested in the President and Government, while
legislative authority rests jointly with the President and the 63
member Alþing (Parliament). Both are elected for 4 year terms.
The Alþing has recently been reduced from 2 houses to 1.