Europe

Iceland profile - Leaders

President: Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

Iceland's President Grimsson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Grimsson often speaks out on controversial issues

Mr Grimsson was re-elected president in 2012 for a record fifth term, having first been elected in 1996.

An academic political scientist by profession who studied at the University of Manchester in England, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson was elected to parliament for the left-wing People's Alliance in 1978 and served as finance minister in a coalition government in 1988-1991.

He often speaks out on controversial issues, and his relations with the conservative Independence Party - the dominant party in Icelandic politics until 2009 - has been uneasy.

Mr Grimsson was the first president to use his right to put a bill to a national referendum in 2004, prompting the government to withdraw a proposal that would have set up an official committee to police freedom of speech.

He later used the same power successfully twice - in 2010 and 2011 - to veto a government plan to repay British and Dutch investors over the collapse of the Icelandic banking system.

He has been a vocal critic of the international response to Iceland's financial crisis, and is a campaigner for greater international action on climate change.

Interim prime minister: Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Johannsson will serve as interim prime minister until early elections expected in autumn 2016

Iceland's ruling centre-right coalition named Mr Johannsson as the country's new prime minister after Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson stepped aside from the post in the wake of revelations contained in leaked documents from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, which showed that Mr Gunnlaugsson had failed to declare his co-ownership of an offshore firm when he became an MP in 2009.

Mass demonstrations were held outside the Icelandic parliament building when it emerged that Mr Gunnlaugsson had failed to disclose a potential financial conflict of interest, arising from the fact that the offshore company he co-owned with his wife until after he entered parliament had a stake in several failed Icelandic banks. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Both Mr Johannsson and Mr Gunnlaugsson are members of the Progressive Party, which has been led by Mr Gunnlaugsson since early 2009 and has governed in coalition with the conservative Independence Party since the 2013 parliamentary election.

Mr Johannsson has served as Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture since 2013 and is also the deputy leader of the Progressive Party.

The two centre-right parties came to power after voters became disillusioned with the Social Democrats, who won the 2009 election but faced an uphill task in rebuilding the Icelandic economy following the catastrophic collapse of the country's main banks in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

When Mr Gunnlaugsson took over the reins of power in 2013, he was seen as belonging to a new breed of politicians who emerged after the 2008 financial crisis, and his elevation to the premiership marked a generational shift in the Icelandic government.

His predecessor, Johanna Sigurdardottir, was 70 at the time of the election, while Mr Gunnlaugsson, aged 38 when he took office, became one of the youngest serving heads of government in the world.

Although Ms Sigurdardottir's Social Democrat government, which took over in 2009, had succeeded in stabilising the economy and returning Iceland to modest growth, many Icelanders continued to suffer the after-effects of the crisis. By the end of Ms Sigurdardottir's term of office, real wages were still far below their pre-crisis levels, and the level of household debt continued to be crippling.

The consequence of this was that in the 2013 election, the Social Democrats suffered the worst defeat of any ruling party since Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944.

The Eurosceptic Mr Gunnlaugsson's government in 2015 suspended Iceland's application to join the EU, saying the country's interests were better served outside the bloc. It had already frozen membership talks soon after coming to power.

When Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009, shortly after the financial crisis, membership was seen by many as offering the country a way out of its economic woes. But the subsequent turbulence in the eurozone led many Icelanders to question the benefits.

Fishing is one of the island nation's biggest resources, and a majority of the population is opposed to the introduction of the EU's common policies on fishing.

The coalition government has promised to hold early elections in the autumn. In the meantime, it has vowed to push ahead with a plan to phase out the capital controls imposed after the collapse of the banks.