Iceland Mag

5 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Politics

Head of leading conservationist and environmental NGO named Minister of Environment

By Staff

  • Mummi, the Minister of the Environment A tireless environmentalist, and CEO of the largest environmental and nature conservation NGO in Iceland Guðmundur Ingi is best known as "Mummi of Landvernd". Photo/Landvernd

The CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland, will serve as the Minister of the Environment in the Left Green led coalition government. The Left Greens control three cabinet posts in the government, including the Ministry of the Environment. Rather than pick one of their own MPs, the party has picked the environmental activist Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson to head the ministry.

Read more: Report: Grand Coalition a reality: Left Greens, conservative Independence party join forces

Historic appointment
The appointment of Guðmundur Ingi to the post is notable for several reasons. He will be the first openly gay man to serve as cabinet minister in Iceland. 

While it is not unheard of to look outside politics to fill cabinet posts, it is relatively rare. In Icelandic politics cabinet positions are as a rule filled with senior MPs. Only 21 people have served as government ministers while not simultaneously occupying a seat in parliament. Most have been prominent politicians who had recently retired or lost re-election.

Political commentators have argued that appointing a prominent environmental activist as the Minister of the Environment sends the signal that the incoming government intends to take environmental issues seriously. Guðmundur Ingi is a member of the Left Green Movement

A strategic move
But it also a strategic move: By appointing someone from outside parliament the parliamentary force of the Left Green movement will be stronger. Out of the 11 MPs of the party two will have cabinet positions, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who will be Prime Minister and Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who will be the Minister of Health and one, Steingrímur J Sigurðsson will be the Speaker of Parliament. This leaves the party 8 ordinary MPs to man and chair parliamentary committees.

However, two of the party's MPs voted against the Policy Agreement of the government. While these MPs, Andrés Ingi Jónsson and Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir told the National Broadcasting Service they will not leave the party, and will continue to caucus with the Left Greens, the party and the government will not be able to count on their votes. This means the Left Greens will only have 6 ordinary MPs they can consistently rely on. 

The appointment of Guðmundur Ingi to the cabinet post will therefore give the party a strong advocate in the key ministry, while also having the added benefit of shoring up the party's strength in parliament.

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