How can I vote in the next Icelandic presidential election?

iceland election

With a presidential election coming up on June 1, it’s a great time to briefly brush up on who can vote in Iceland, where to vote, and how.

Who is eligible to vote?

Icelandic citizens who have reached the age of majority (18) by election day and are legally registered in Iceland are eligible to vote in the presidential elections.

Besides these conditions, there are some special cases to briefly consider.

An Icelandic citizen who has been legally registered in Iceland has voting rights for sixteen years from the time they move domicile from the country. After that period, they must apply to be re-registered to Registers Iceland.

A special consideration also exists for Danish citizens who resided in Iceland prior to its formal independence. So if you are a Danish citizen and were registered as living in Iceland March 6, 1946, or at any time during the last 10 years before that time, you are also eligible to vote for the next Icelandic president.

Read more on the official government website.

Note that these conditions are for parliamentary and presidential elections, in addition to national referendums. Different rules apply for municipal elections, where foreign residents are still eligible to vote if they have been registered to Iceland for three years or more. Slightly different rules also apply to citizens of other Nordic nations.

Where can you vote?

Your polling station will be determined by your residence as stated to Registers Iceland. At their website, you can enter your civil registration number (kennitala) and find where you polling station will be.

Remember that the 2024 presidential elections will take place June 1.

Do I need to bring anything to the polling station?

Yes, Icelandic law does require voters to present identification before voting. This can be in the form of a driver’s license, passport, or civil identity card. Electronic identification is also accepted, so if you have it set up, your phone will be sufficient (though it doesn’t hurt to bring additional identification, just in case).

I will be abroad. Can I still vote?

If you will be travelling or otherwise unable to vote on election day, it is still possible to vote at the district commissioner’s office or at Holtagarðar, if you live in the capital region. Read more here.

If you are an Icelandic citizen registered as living abroad, you will need to contact an Icelandic embassy or consulate. A list of Icelandic embassies and consulates is available here.

I have special circumstances. Can I still vote?

If you are sick and in hospital, in a nursing or residential home, imprisoned, or otherwise unable to make it to a polling station, it is still possible to vote. More information here.

Voting at home is also permitted in cases of illness, disability, or childbirth. Special permission must be applied for no later than two days before elections. Read more.

 

Iceland Violated Right to Free Elections, ECHR Finds

Alþingishúsið

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found this morning that Iceland violated the right to free elections and the right to an effective remedy in a case that concerned the 2021 elections to Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament. Iceland will have to pay the two applicants in the case €13,000 each in respect of non-pecuniary damages.

Recount irregularities

The case concerned irregularities in the recount of votes in the Northwest constituency that changed the allocation of seats in Alþingi after the 2021 elections. The applicants in the case, Guðmundur Gunnarsson of the Reform Party and Magnús Davíð Norðdahl of the Pirate Party, were both unsuccessful candidates in the constituency, the smallest of Iceland’s six constituencies.

“When the results came in, there was only a thin margin of votes in the Northwest and South constituencies, which could have affected the allocation of levelling seats,”  the ECHR’s press release reads. Levelling seats are distributed nationally between parties that receive at least 5% of the total vote. “A recount was ordered and it changed the standings in the Northwest constituency, leading to Mr Gunnarsson losing his levelling seat.”

Lacked impartiality safeguards

Certain irregularities were found to have taken place during the recount, including the unsecured and unsupervised storage of ballots between the first count and the recount.

The ECHR found that Alþingi’s handling of the applicants’ complaints “had lacked necessary impartiality safeguards and had been characterised by virtually unrestrained discretion”. The procedure meant that the applicants did not have an effective domestic remedy, which violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

From Goalkeeper to President? Björgvin Páll Says “Not Yet”

Goalkeeper Björgvin Páll Gústavsson

National handball team goalkeeper Björgvin Páll Gústavsson has decided not to run for the presidency of Iceland, despite a longstanding dream and public speculation about his candidacy. Björgvin cites a lack of experience and other personal dreams as reasons for not pursuing the office. Presidential elections are set for June 1.

A dream deferred

In his annual New Year’s address, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson announced that he would be stepping down from the presidency after two terms in office, having served eight years in total. Guðni had previously declared that he would only serve three terms at most. Since his decision, a handful of individuals have announced their candidacy (none of whom have been especially popular in the polls). 

Among those individuals who have been linked to the candidacy is Björgvin Páll Gústavsson, the men’s national handball team goalkeeper and player for the Icelandic club Valur. In a Facebook post today, however, Björgvin Páll clarified that he would not be running for the office of the President.

“I have many dreams, one of them is to someday become the President of Iceland,” Björgvin Páll said on Facebook. “But not now. I do not consider myself experienced enough to be president. Besides, there are all sorts of other dreams getting in the way that I need to fulfil first. These dreams are related to sports, my children, and all the other children. One is allowed to dream, and as Vigdís Finnbogadóttir put it during her inauguration in 1980: ‘We are the stuff that dreams are spun from,’” Björgvin Páll remarked.

In his post, Björgvin notes that his dream of becoming president first ignited during an admission into the Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Department of the National Hospital (BUGL) when he was just eight years old. This dream was further reinforced when he was awarded the Order of the Falcon 15 years later. Following the publication of his children’s book, A Child Becomes President, in December 2022, a poll was conducted by the media outlet Vísir and the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis, wherein 40% of respondents said that they could envision Björgvin as president.

Presidential elections will take place on June 1 of this year and the new president’s term will begin on August 1. Among those individuals who have already announced their candidacy are entrepreneur Ástþór Magnússon, attorney Arnar Þór Jónsson, and investor Sigríður Hrund Pétursdóttir.

Formal Negotiations for Reykjavík City Council Begin

Einar Þorsteinsson

The Progressive Party has begun formal negotiations with the Social-Democratic Alliance, the Pirate Party, and the Reform Party on forming a governing majority on the Reykjavík City Council, RÚV reports. Under the leadership of first-time councillor Einar Þorsteinsson, the Progressive Party went from zero seats on the council to four following the May 14 municipal elections. Both Einar and incumbent mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson have stated they are not insistent on becoming mayor in the upcoming term: negotiations will focus on the issues before responsibilities are divided up.

Majority lost in election

Reykjavík’s four-party governing coalition of last term – consisting of the Social-Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Left-Green Movement – lost two of its 12 seats in the election, and therefore its majority on the 23-seat Reykjavík City Council. The Social-Democratic Alliance and Reform Party both lost seats, the Left-Green Party held its single seat, while the Pirate Party increased its number of seats from two to three. As elsewhere in the country, the Progressive Party saw great success in Reykjavík, going from zero seats on the City Council to four. The Independence Party, while it received the largest proportion of the vote (nearly 25%), lost one seat, going from seven to six councillors.

Rule out coalition with Independence Party

As is normally the case for municipal elections in Reykjavík, no party won enough seats to form a majority on its own. While many different party coalitions are technically possible, several have been ruled out by party councillors, who are not willing to work with just anyone. The Left-Green Movement’s only councillor Lif Magneudóttir has stated the party will not participate in majority negotiations at all. The Pirate Party has ruled out a coalition with the Independence Party on political grounds, while the Social-Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Pirate Party have decided to band together in the negotiation process, ruling out a coalition that would include the Independence Party.

Socialist Party councillor Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir criticised the three-party grouping for negotiations, stating that the additional seats won by the Socialist Party and Pirate Party indicated voters were calling for a left-leaning city council, not a right-leaning one. The Socialist Party has refused to be in a majority government with the Reform Party, which it labels as a right-wing party.

“We see that the Reform Party speaks in favour of privatisation, outsourcing, and these market solutions, as was clearly stated in their election campaign. We Socialists speak for socialists and social solutions and very much in like with the emphases that should be expressed by the Social Democrats.”

Advanced Polls Busy as Municipal Elections Approach

Reykjavík City Hall ráðhús

More residents have voted in advanced polls for the upcoming municipal election than in the last election, in 2018, Vísir reports. Amendments to election legislation that took effect this year require all parties to announce their candidacy before advanced polls open. The amendments have had varying effects on the May 14 election, including enabling more foreign residents to vote and making it more difficult to man polling stations.

“So far today we’ve had 421 people vote here at the District Commissioner of Greater Reykjavík and since [advanced polls] opened, 2,800 have voted, and 4,063 across the whole country,” District Commissioner Sigríður Kristinsdóttir stated. There have already been more advanced voters in the capital area this election than in the entire country preceding the last election, in 2018. The advanced polling station for the capital area is open daily in the Holtagarðar shopping centre from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. On election day, the station will be open between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM for voters whose registered address is outside the capital area.

Many electoral committees not fully staffed

The new election legislation has made it difficult to staff electoral committees, particularly in smaller municipalities, RÚV reports. A new rule states that committee staff members may not appear as supporters on the election lists of campaigning parties. In many municipalities, this has ruled out a majority of election committee staff, who are scrambling to find replacements. The fact that the election falls on the same day as the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest final has reportedly also made staffing polling stations more difficult.

40% of voters are immigrants

Before this year, most foreign citizens living in Iceland had to wait five years before they could vote in municipal elections. The new legislation has shortened that period to three years, with Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish citizens whose legal residence is in Iceland can vote regardless of how long they have lived in the country.

The amendment has led to some large shifts in voter demographics, for example in Mýrdalshreppur, South Iceland, where 42% of eligible voters are immigrants. The proportion is around one third in Skaftárhreppur and Súðavíkurhreppur, and around one quarter in Reykjanesbær, Southwest Iceland. In an effort to reach voters who may not speak Icelandic, more political parties have created materials in English and Polish and held campaign meetings in English.

The Multicultural Information Centre provides comprehensive information about municipal elections in English on its website.

Sólveig Anna Announces Candidacy for Efling Chair

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, who resigned as Efling’s Chairperson in October, has decided to resubmit her candidacy for the position, RÚV reports. Elections for a new board and chairperson will begin on February 9 and will end on February 15.

Resubmission of candidacy

In October of last year, Efling Union Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir resigned. Her departure followed on the heels of accusations of workplace bullying, as alleged by union staff in letters of no-confidence to her, the union, and Icelandic media.

Sólveig Anna subsequently denied the allegations, and after her resignation, union members stated, in another letter to the media, that what they had wanted was solutions – and not resignations.

Following these events, Efling voted in its first chair of foreign origin (on a short-term basis): Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, who previously served as vice-chair of the union.

“Numerous encouraging messages”

Elections for a new board and chairperson will commence on February 9 and will end on February 15. So far, two other candidates have announced their intentions to run: Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir, Efling’s current vice-chair, and Guðmundur Baldursson, Efling board member.

In an interview with RÚV, Sólveig Anna remarked that she had decided to submit her candidacy in light of the “numerous encouraging messages” that she had received from union members. Despite these positive messages, Sólveig added that her decision had required careful deliberation: “I still spent a lot of time weighing the prospect, but in the end, having discussed it with good people, we reached this conclusion.”

Sólveig Anna will be campaigning under the banner of Baráttulistinn (the Fight List), and states that she is prepared for the campaign: “I’m certainly ready for the fight. Since I first assumed chair of the union, in 2018, I’ve been prepared to fight. Efling has made tremendous strides; we managed to transform this colossal bureaucracy, which enabled the continuation of low-wage policies, into the most powerful tool wielded by Icelandic workers.”

Iceland’s second largest labour union

As noted in an article in Iceland Review last year, Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, with around 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Sólveig Anna became Efling’s chair in 2018 and led wage negotiations and strikes among City of Reykjavík employees and hotel workers calling for better wages and working conditions for low earners. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin.

Election Certificates Confirmed in All Constituencies

Iceland's Althing

Yesterday, parliament confirmed the election certificates (i.e. kjörbréf) of all MPs and substitute MPs. A proposal to approve all election certificates except those from the northwest constituency was vetoed, as was a bid to invalidate certificates from the entire country.

Two months later …

After a recount redistributed five of parliament’s 63 seats following elections on September 25, several candidates filed charges against election proceedings in the northwest constituency. Plaintiffs argued that the election supervision committee had failed to seal the votes after it had completed its initial count and had left them unattended.

A preparatory Credentials Committee was subsequently established (later succeeded by the actual Credentials Committee after parliament reconvened following a lengthy hiatus) to investigate these claims. Following weeks of discussions and a field trip to Hotel Borgarnes, the committee submitted its findings to parliament this week.

Three proposals vetoed

Having reviewed the committee’s report, parliament voted on several proposals yesterday.

Only six MPs voted to approve Björn Leví Gunnarsson’s proposal that the results of the parliamentary election be nullified and no election certificates confirmed. Fifty-three MPs voted against the proposal. Likewise, Indriði Ingi Stefánsson’s proposal that election certificates in the northwest constituency be confirmed according to the initial count was vetoed. Fifty-five decided against the proposal, and four abstained.

Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Þórunn Sveinbjarnadóttir’s proposal to confirm all election certificates excluding the northwest constituency was vetoed. Forty-two MPs voted against the proposal, sixteen for, and four abstained. The Left-Green Movement was the only party to be split in its vote. Three MPs from the Left-Green Movement voted in favour of the proposal: Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, and Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir. Two Left-Green MPs abstained: Jódís Skúladóttir and Orri Páll Jóhannsson.

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Svandís Svavarsdóttir remarked that while each MP would have to make up their mind regarding the election certificates, it was her belief that proving that no one had tampered with the ballots was impossible.

A clear majority for the confirmation of all certificates

In the end, parliament voted confirmed the election certificates of all MPs and substitute MPs. Forty-two MPs voted to approve, while sixteen abstained from voting. MPs from the Progressive and Independent Parties voted in unison to approve all election certificates.

PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Chairperson of the Left-Green Movement stated that even though there were undoubted shortcomings in the securing of ballots in the northwest constituency, it was unlikely that these shortcomings had impacted the vote. She thus voted to approve all election certificates.

It is thus clear which MPs will serve during this election period.

A “predictable disappointment”

In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Lenya Rún Taha Karim of the Pirate Party stated that the result was “distressing” and a “predictable disappointment.” Lenya would have become the youngest MP in Iceland’s history if the original count in the northwest constituency would have been allowed to stand. She will now serve as a substitute MP.

“We’ve now got a legislature that decided to approve an infringement to the law and has laid its blessing upon a result that cannot be proven right. This is much bigger than a politician having a seat in parliament; it’s about our trust in the democratic process, which, in this case, cannot be trusted.”

After the vote, parliament took a fifteen-minute intermission before new MPs signed oaths to uphold the constitution.

Parliament to Vote on a Possible Revote on Thursday

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

Parliament will vote on the validity of the recount in the northwest constituency on Thursday, Mbl.is reports. The Credentials Committee will convene again today to finalize its report.

An awkward reshuffling of seats

On Sunday, September 26, Iceland briefly celebrated a female-majority parliament – before a recount redistributed five of the parliament’s 63 seats and thereby invalidated what would also have been a landmark election in Europe.

After the recount, several candidates filed charges against election proceedings in the northwest constituency on the basis that the election supervision committee had failed to seal the votes after it had completed the initial count. Furthermore, the plaintiffs complained that the committee had left the ballots unattended at Hotel Borgarnes after election staff went home. Subsequently, a special committee was established to draw up a report on the controversy and to

The Credentials Committee to make two proposals

Following weeks of discussions and a field trip to Hotel Borgarnes, the Credentials Committee convened yesterday to finalize its report. The committee did not manage to finish the report, however, and will be meeting again today. Parliament will vote on the issue on Thursday.

Two proposals will be submitted, according to Birgir Ármansson, the committee’s chairman, who in an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, refused to comment on the exact nature of the proposals. As noted by Mbl.is, at least three options are possible: a second vote in the constituency, a confirmation of the recount, or a third count.

Birgir added that each parliamentarian must decide whether or not to take a stance on the possibility of a second vote in the northwest constituency. According to parliamentary law, Birgir observed, all of the 63 parliamentarians who have received an election certificate (i.e. kjörbréf) will be eligible to vote. Given the obvious conflict of interest, however, not everyone agrees whether the five parliamentarians who gained seats following the recount should participate in the vote on Thursday.

One candidate, who lost his seat following the recount – and who subsequently filed a legal complaint against the recount – has stated that he will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if the second count is made to stand.

Parliament Reconvenes Following Lengthy Hiatus

Opening ceremony

Parliament reconvened in an opening ceremony this afternoon. The first item on the agenda was the election of members to the Credentials Committee.

Fewer present than usual

Following a lengthy hiatus, which began in early July, Parliament reconvened this afternoon. The opening of Parliament started at 1.30 pm with service at the Reykavík Cathedral. Only a few guests were invited to attend in light of this most infectious wave of the pandemic (204 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed yesterday).

Following the service, the President of Iceland, the Bishop of Iceland, the Speaker of Alþingi, government ministers, and MPs processed to the Parliament House.

The longest-serving MP, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Chairman of the Reform Party, directed the first legislative session and gave a speech commemorating the life and career of former MP and Minister Jón Sigurðsson, who passed away in September of this year.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson also gave a speech before Parliament in which, among other things, he discussed society’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guðni stated that “extremism and exaggeration often accompany the free exchange of ideas but that the Icelanders had been so fortunate as to show solidarity against a common threat.” The President added that the freedom to infect others was a “perversion of rights.”

Likely that the recount will stand

Parliament’s first order of business was the election of a Credentials Committee, which will succeed the Preparatory Credentials Committee. The committee has spent the past few weeks investigating election procedures in the northwest constituency, where a recount saw the reshuffling of parliamentary seats following the election on September 25.

Parliament adjourned and will not convene again until Thursday. On that day, the Credentials Committee is expected to submit its proposals to a vote. Birgir Ármansson, Director of the Credentials Committee, told RÚV today that he expects a majority of MPs to vote to confirm the recount in the northwest constituency and thereby confirm the credentials of all 63 members of Parliament.

13 Legal Complaints Filed with Parliament Over the Elections

parliament Alþingi

Parliament has now published the 13 legal complaints that have been filed since the elections took place on September 25, RÚV reports. Most of the complaints originate from candidates who lost their seats due to a recount in the northwest constituency.

Shortcomings in the northwest

On Sunday, September 26, Iceland briefly celebrated a female-majority parliament – before a recount redistributed five of the parliament’s 63 seats and thereby invalidated what would also have been a landmark election in Europe.

Two days after the recount, two candidates filed charges against election proceedings in the northwest constituency on the basis that the election supervision committee had failed to seal the votes after it had completed the initial count. Furthermore, the two candidates complained that the committee had left the ballots unattended at Hotel Borgarnes after election staff went home.

The youngest parliamentarian … almost

As reported by RÚV this morning, parliament has published the now thirteen legal complaints that it has received regarding the elections. Five have been submitted by candidates who lost their seats due to the recount in the northwest constituency: Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir, Karl Gauti Hjaltason, Guðmundur Gunnarsson, Hólmfríður Árnadóttir, and Lenya Rún Taha Karim – the latter of whom would have become the youngest parliamentarian in history at the age of 21 (22 days younger than Jóhanna María Sigmundsdóttir). The Chairman of the Pirate Party’s district council in the northwest, Magnús Davíð Norðdahl, also brought charges to parliament against the legitimacy of the election.

Besides the abovementioned charges, three residents of the northwest constituency – Sveinn Flóki Guðmundsson, Ólafur Jónsson, and Sigurður Hreinn Sigurðsson – also filed legal complaints, along with lawyer Katrín Oddsdóttir and economist Þorvaldur Gylfason. In his complaint, Þorvaldur argues that Ingi Tryggvason, Chairman of the Head Election Supervision Committee in the northwest constituency, had admitted to violating voting laws in statements to the media. Katrín Oddsdóttir maintains that the shortcomings of the election process in the northwest violated the citizenry’s right to free elections.

Rúnar Björn Hererra Þorkelsson, head of the NPA Centre (a support organisation for the disabled) also filed a complaint based, on the one hand, on the shortcomings of the count in the northwest and, on the other hand, on the fact that he, as a disabled person, had been prevented from casting a secret ballot in the Reykjavík south constituency.

Preparatory commission meets

A preparatory commission tasked with investigating the election held an open meeting earlier today. Trausti Fannar Valsson, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Iceland, and Ragnhildur Helgadóttir, President of the University of Reykjavík, were invited as guests.

As noted by RÚV, Trausti Fannar told the commission that he could find no legal basis for banning the recount of votes during parliamentary elections but that the issue was whether or not laws had been violated during the recount. Ragnhildur stated that the decision rested with parliament: “There was a strong, democratic rationale for the clause being included in the Constitution at the time.”

It remains unclear when the preparatory commission will conclude its investigation.