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Introducing… Katrín Jakobsdóttir


Iceland has a new prime minister. Katrín Jacobsdóttir is the charismatic leader of Iceland’s Left-Green Alliance. In elections last October, the 41-year-old led her party, which has a leftist combination of feminism and environmentalism, to a strong second-place finish with a record 16 seats. The governing centre-right Independence Party lost a quarter of its seats but maintained a plurality.

Jacobsdóttir is considered honest and thoughtful, with polls showing that 74 per cent of Icelanders support her as their new premier. The Left-Greens have now replaced the more staid Social Democratic Alliance party as the main force on the Left of Icelandic politics. In December, this mood for change allowed Jacobsdóttir to pull together a coalition government.

Although Jacobsdóttir comes from a family of well-known academics and politicians she lives in a modest Reykjavik apartment where she helps raise three young sons. She wants to tax the wealthy, use dividends from the banks to rebuild infrastructure or reduce public debt, make Iceland carbon neutral and boost public spending on health and education.

The Left-Greens are Eurosceptic (also dubious about NATO and free trade) and their recent success is tied to the fatigue Icelanders are feeling with the corruption and double-dealing of the mostly male conservative political class. They are looking to Jacobsdóttir as a different kind of leader.

The question now is how much the Left-Greens will have to compromise their radical programme with coalition partners (the centre-right Independents and centrist Progressives) in order to stay in power.


New Internationalist issue 510 magazine cover This article is from the February 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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