Gay politician tipped to lead new government in Iceland


Stockholm/Reykjavik : Iceland seems set to make political history again after the recent collapse of its ruling coalition since the top candidate as interim prime minister is openly gay.

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If Johanna Sigurdardottir, outgoing social affairs minister, succeeds in forming a government, she would be Iceland’s first woman prime minister and also likely the world’s first openly gay head of government.

The North Atlantic nation of 320,000 inhabitants made history in 1980 when Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the world’s first democratically elected female head of state.

Mass protests contributed to the government’s collapse this week. Iceland has been battered by the financial crisis with unemployment rising sharply, and the economy is facing a severe contraction.

President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson asked the Social Democratic Alliance Tuesday to form an interim government until early elections are held.

Sigurdadottir was proposed by the leader of the Social Democrats, Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir.

Gisladottir, 54, has for the time being counted out herself after having undergone treatment for cancer.

Talks are ongoing with the Red-Green Movement to form a minority government.

The 66-year-old Sigurdadottir was elected to parliament in 1978. She was social affairs minister 1987-94, and from 2007.

Sigurdadottir has scored high in approval ratings, bucking the general trend in the outgoing cabinet.

Before she was elected to parliament, Sigurdadottir worked as an air stewardess and an office worker.

In parliament she has held the post of deputy speaker, and served on several committees including social affairs, economy and trade, industry and foreign affairs.

Her spouse since 2002 is author Jonina Leosdottir, 54. The couple have three adult children, two from Sigurdadottir’s previous marriage.

Outgoing Prime Minister Geir Haarde, 57, last week said he was suffering from cancer and was to step down as leader of the Independence Party at the party conference in March.