April 18, 2016 / 6:06 PM / 3 years ago

After Iceland's PM steps down, president says to run for sixth term

Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson attends a news conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Iceland’s longest serving president said on Monday he would run for a sixth term in June, reversing a decision to bow out in response to political upheaval caused by the prime minister’s resignation over the Panama Papers scandal.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who has been president since 1996, has exerted his right to demand popular votes on key issues, introducing political power to an office that had traditionally been seen as largely ceremonial.

His about-face comes nearly two weeks after Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson decided to step down after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed his wife owned an offshore company that held debt from failed Icelandic banks.

“The events lately and how they have shed light on the state of society... and the situation of the government has led to people saying that somewhere there has to be stability and experience in the coming years,” Grimsson told a news conference.

Grimsson demanded referendums on deals made by the government to pay Britain and the Netherlands for their bailouts of customers of private Icelandic banks.

In both cases, voters rejected the deals.

Reporting by Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir; writing by Niklas Pollard; editing by John Stonestreet

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