Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has been reelected as president of Iceland, RÚV reports. With 92.2% of the popular vote, Guðni enjoys the second-largest victory margin in Icelandic presidential election history. Only Vigdís Finnbogadóttir won by a larger margin: 94.6% in 1988, during her third term. This will be Guðni’s second term.
Guðni enjoyed huge support among Icelanders in the lead-up to Saturday’s election: 93.5% of respondents in a recent poll stated they would vote for Guðni, as opposed to the 6.5% who voiced their preference for Guðni’s only opponent, Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson.
Voting in the Time of COVID-19
Social distancing precautions were taken to ensure that Icelanders could vote safely this year, namely that voting was staggered and possible in advance of election day, June 27, rather than having all voters cast their ballots on the same day, as usual.
In addition, some rather interesting measures were put in place for those voters who have been quarantined due to possible COVID-19 infection. In such cases, Vísir reports, voters were sent to vote at drive-up polling stations. One at a time, voters drove into car-sized, fenced-in cubicles that had been walled off with opaque tarps. The individual then wrote down the name of the candidate they wanted to cast their vote for and held it up for the stationed poll worker to record. Per quarantine regulations, the voter could not roll down their car window, open their door, or exit the vehicle during this process.
A Brief Sketch of Presidential Elections in Iceland
Iceland became an independent republic in 1944 and held its first presidential election in 1952. Each presidential term is four years and there is no official limit to the number of times someone can be president, although there is an unofficial tradition of not holding the office for more than four terms. The notable exception to this is former President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Guðni’s predecessor, who held the office for five terms.
Although there have only been six presidents, 31 people have run as presidential candidates in nine presidential elections. (Note: there hasn’t been an election every time an incumbent’s term ended; in the event that the incumbent is unopposed at the end of their term and wants to continue being president, they resume the office without an election.) A presidential candidate has only received the majority of the vote on five different occasions. In 2016, for instance, Guðni ran against eight other candidates and received 39.1% of the vote. It has likewise happened five times that a presidential candidate has received less than 1% of the vote – four of these instances just so happen to have been during the last presidential election.
“My duty is to continue along the same path”
Guðni commented on Sunday morning that the results of the election were “confirmation that the nation has been happy about how I’ve done my job here at Bessastaðir [the Icelandic Presidential Residence] and an indication and confirmation that my duty is to continue along the same path. For that, I’m extremely grateful.”