Presidential Reception for New Icelanders

Forsetaembættið. New Icelanders welcomed at presidential residence Bessastaðir

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid hosted a reception yesterday for all those who had received Icelandic citizenship this year. The couple were both present at the event to welcome the group of new Icelanders and congratulate them on their newly-acquired rights and responsibilities as Icelandic citizens. It was the first time such a reception has been held by Iceland’s president.

In his speech to the group, Guðni emphasised the importance of healthy patriotism and defining Icelandic nationality with broad-mindedness, tolerance, diversity, freedom, solidarity, compassion, and empathy. The First Lady echoed his sentiments, while also addressing the challenges of learning the Icelandic language, which takes time.

The idea for the reception came from Eliza, who is an immigrant to Iceland herself. “When I became an Icelandic citizen in 2008 I was notified by a form letter in the mail,” the First Lady wrote on social media. “I thought it was a big deal, a moment to celebrate! But the letter didn’t necessarily indicate that Iceland thought it was a big deal that I was now among their ranks. So it has long been a dream of mine that we would be able to recognize and formally welcome new citizens in some way. It underscores to new Icelanders the importance and responsibility of citizenship, while reminding those of us ‘older’ Icelanders that we too have obligations to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute fully to society and help to make it a richer nation for all of us.”

Guðni is not running for re-election in Iceland’s ongoing presidential race. Eliza stated that while she will not have influence in the matter in future years, she hopes the welcoming tradition continues.

Presidential Candidates Katrín and Baldur Neck and Neck

Bessastaðir, official residence of the President of Iceland.

The field of candidates for the office of president of Iceland is becoming clearer, with elections set for June 1. The frontrunners are neck and neck, according to pollster Gallup, with former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir polling at 30% and Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, at 26%.

Vísir reports that this survey shows that Katrín and Baldur are statistically equal. Comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr is in third place with 18%, the only other candidate in double digits.

Political turmoil after Katrín’s announcement

The race was shaken up by Katrín’s announcement that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to run for president, a mostly ceremonial position that comes with limited political powers. Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson took over as prime minister as other cabinet positions were reshuffled. Katrín remains a popular politician, even though her coalition government has lost public support during this term.

Other candidates are polling at lower numbers. Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, polls at 7%, with lawyer Arnar Þór Jónsson and Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director general of Iceland’s National Energy Authority both at 4%.

Age and gender divide

According to Gallup, older people are more likely to vote for Katrín, while Jón gets most of his support from younger people. Women are also more likely to support Baldur, Halla Tómasdóttir and Katrín, with men more likely to support Jón.

The deadline to confirm candidacy is in two weeks and the election takes place on June 1. The current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, announced on January 1 that he would not run again after serving two terms.

Coalition Government in Flux After PM Decision

government coalition

The future of the coalition government is uncertain following yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir that she would leave her post to run for the office of president.

Katrín’s Left-Green Movement, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party make up the coalition, but it is unclear if it will continue until the elections set for next year. It has not been announced who will take over from Katrín as prime minister or if new elections will be called ahead of schedule.

Unclear who will be prime minister

According to Morgunblaðið, the leaders of the coalition parties are in talks about the next steps, with both the Independence Party and the Progressive Party laying claim to the office of prime minister. If talks break down, a new coalition could be formed to serve until next year’s elections.

Opposition MPs have called for a new election immediately. The Left-Green Movement will also need to choose a successor for Katrín, who resigned as leader yesterday after 11 years at the helm. Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, minister of social affairs and the labour market, has taken Katrín’s place until party members make their decision.

Dozens of candidates for president

Katrín is leaving parliamentary politics to campaign for the largely ceremonial office of president. This is the first time in Iceland’s history that the reigning prime minister runs for president. Current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, announced on January 1 that he would leave the office this summer after having served two terms.

Other candidates for president include Jón Gnarr, comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík, Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, and dozens of others. The election takes place in one round on June 1. Therefore, the next president could be elected with a significant minority of the total vote.

Iceland President Cancels Ukraine Trip

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson cancelled a visit to Ukraine over safety concerns. The trip was scheduled for Easter Sunday, Mbl.is reports.

Security concerns

Among the events scheduled for President Guðni’s visit were a meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, followed by a ceremony for the two year anniversary of the Bucha massacre when Russian troops invaded the city. The president was to attend a conference following the ceremony.

Due to security concerns, the Ukrainian government cancelled the event. In the last few days, Russian troops have increased the number of missile and drone strikes, affecting energy infrastructure.

Presidential election coming up

President Guðni is enjoying his last few months in office, with a presidential election set for June 1. In his New Year’s Day address on January 1, he announced that he would not run again after two terms in office, totalling eight years.

Among the candidates are Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, and Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, while comedian Jón Gnarr is expected to announce today whether or not he will run. Among other rumoured candidates is Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Baldur Runs for President

Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science

Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science at the University of Iceland, announced his candidacy for president of Iceland today, Vísir reports.

In a meeting at Bæjarbíó theatre in Hafnarfjörður, Baldur was introduced by his husband, actor and media personality Felix Bergsson. “We can’t sit by anymore and ignore your words of encouragement,” said Baldur in his speech. “We’re going to answer the call loud and clear and go for it.”

Many candidates in the running

Baldur’s candidacy has been rumoured for weeks. A Facebook group to encourage Baldur and Felix to run was founded at the beginning of March by Gunnar Helgason, an actor and creative partner of Felix. The group already has over 18 thousand members.

Earlier this week, Halla Tómasdóttir, a business person, CEO of B Team and a previous candidate for the office, announced her candidacy. Candidates who have already announced include Agnieszka Sokolowska, Arnar Þór Jónsson, Axel Pétur Axelsson, Ástþór Magnússon, Húni Húnfjörð, Sigríður Hrund Pétursdóttir and Tómas Logi Hallgrímsson.

Election set for June

On New Year’s Day, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson announced his decision not to run again in the election, set for June 1. He was elected in 2016 with 39% of the vote. Halla also ran in 2016, coming in second with 28% of the vote.

The president is head of state in Iceland and the role is mostly ceremonial, although it comes with limited political powers according to the constitution. A number of people have signed up online to collect the 1,500 necessary signatures of supporters to be allowed to run for the office, despite not having publicly announced their candidacy, with the deadline set at April 26.

 

Presidential Race Heats Up

Halla Tómasdóttir, candidate for president of Iceland

A new contender has entered the race for president of Iceland. Halla Tómasdóttir, a business person, CEO of B Team and a previous candidate for the office, announced her candidacy at a press conference yesterday, Heimildin reports.

On New Year’s Day, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson announced his decision not to run again in the election, set for June 1. He was elected in 2016 with 39% of the vote. Halla also ran in 2016, coming in second with 28% of the vote.

Ready to make a difference

“If you want a president who is ready to go to work and believes that by harnessing our creativity in the fields of culture, arts, and business we can accomplish anything, then I’m ready to commit myself to make a difference,” Halla said at the well attended press conference in Reykjavík. “If you want a president who wants to build bridges, has empathy and joy, and believes that equality is the key to an even stronger society, then I am sincerely ready, along with my husband, to serve the interests of Icelanders with all my heart.”

Multiple candidates in the running

The president is head of state in Iceland and the role is mostly ceremonial, although it comes with limited political powers according to the constitution. A number of people have signed up online to collect the 1,500 necessary signatures of supporters to be allowed to run for the office, with the deadline set at April 26, but only a handful of candidates have formally announced that they’re running.  They include Agnieszka Sokolowska, Arnar Þór Jónsson, Axel Pétur Axelsson, Ástþór Magnússon, Húni Húnfjörð, Sigríður Hrund Pétursdóttir and Tómas Logi Hallgrímsson.

A recent poll conducted by a publicist showed 35% approval for Halla’s candidacy. Baldur Þórhallsson, a professor of political science who is considering a run, had 53% approval in the same poll. Many other names have been rumoured as possible candidates.

How do I become president of Iceland?

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson outside the Bessastaðir Presidential Residence

Looking for a well-paid job in Iceland, which includes a spacious residence on the Álftanes peninsula and a fancy car with the exclusive number plate “1”? 

The race for the Icelandic presidency is on, and a job vacancy starting August 1, 2024, just opened up. But what are the requirements to run for president in Iceland? Read on to find out whether you’re a good fit!

Icelandic citizenship & being at least 35 years of age

If you think you need to be born in Iceland to become president, as is customary in many other countries around the world, there is good news!

Candidates are not required to be born in Iceland but must have Icelandic citizenship. For people who immigrated to Iceland, obtaining Icelandic citizenship is generally possible after living and having permanent residence here for seven years. There are multiple fast-track options to become an Icelandic citizen, like being a Nordic citizen or being married to an Icelander. You can check out all options here.

Another prerequisite is reaching the minimum age of 35 on election day, you know—life experience and all. 

Collecting a minimum of 1,500 signatures

If you fulfil these requirements above, then you can start collecting endorsements for your presidential candidacy. Luckily, this does not require collecting horrendous sums reaching millions of dollars like in the US elections. Each candidate must turn in at least 1,500 (up to 3,000) endorsements (basically signatures of support), which are proportionally divided by the number of voters in each quarter of the country. Each voter can only support one candidate.

Iceland has four voting quarters: 

  • Southern quarter: Minimum number of “signatures” is 1,233 and maximum number 2,465.
  • Western quarter: The minimum number of “signatures” is 56 and the maximum number is 112.
  • Northern quarter: Minimum number of “signatures” 157 and maximum 314.
  • Eastern quarter: The minimum number of “signatures” is 54 and the maximum number is 109.
Election Quarters Iceland
Voting Quarters in Iceland, graphic provided by Lands­kjör­stjórn (Island.is)

All of these endorsements are collected online via Island.is or old school via signatures on paper, which should include each supporter’s kennitala (Icelandic social security number) for easy verification. After the endorsements have been collected, the candidate turns in a notice of candidacy and their collection of endorsements to the National Electoral Commission.

The commission reviews each collection of endorsements after the deadline on April 26, 2024, and they announce the candidates 30 days before election day. In case there should be only one candidate, that person will be president without any election taking place.

This year, the presidential election will be held on June 1, 2024.

Read our 2018 interview with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson here.

What will change in Iceland in 2024?

New Year's Eve Fireworks in Reykjavík, 2017.

A new year and a new beginning, so they say. 2024 comes with many changes to public price structures all over Iceland, a historic milestone in the population size and also some restructuring in leadership within the country. Here’s all you need to know about the upcoming changes in 2024 in Iceland.

Iceland’s population will reach 400,000 & election of new president

It is predicted that within the first six months of 2024, Iceland’s population will surpass 400,000 people. Currently, the population is only 1,000 people away from that mark. According to Statistics Iceland, the growth has been more rapid than expected as reaching a population of 400,000 was initially predicted in the year 2050.

Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has announced that he will not run for president again, stepping down after two terms (8 years) in office. A new president will be elected in June. Currently, no one has announced their candidacy in the upcoming election.

The mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson has also announced that he will step down from his position on January 16. He was Reykjavík’s mayor for the last ten years. Progressive Party Leader Einar Þorsteinsson will take over as mayor until the next election in 2026.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Pool prices and garbage disposal fees hike

Municipalities in Iceland have announced higher prices for trash collection, as a new system for sorting refuse is being implemented in the capital area. The biggest increase is in Reykjavík, where the price for two bins goes from ISK 52,600 [$389, €350] to ISK 73,500 [$544, €489]. The highest fee remains in the more affluent neighbouring municipality of Seltjarnarnes and amounts to ISK 75,000 [$555, €499]. From January 10, it also won’t be possible to collect disposable paper bags for the biodegradable trash free of charge from the supermarkets anymore. They can be picked up at the recycling centre Sorpa or the second-hand furniture store Góði hirðirinn instead and are still free of charge there.

In Reykjavík, the prices for trips to the swimming pool, museum tickets and petting zoo admissions in Laugardalur have also gone up. A single adult ticket to a public pool increased by 6 per cent and will now cost ISK 1,330 [$10, €9]. Yearly tickets go up by 5.5 per cent, while prices for towel and swimming trunk rentals also rise. 

A hike in bus fare prices for the public transport company Strætó has also been announced. Stræto operates the city buses in the Reykjavík capital region. They will rise by an average of 11 per cent with a single ticket now costing ISK 630  [$4.60, €4.20] from ISK 570 [$4.20, €3.80]. The increase has been justified by citing higher fuel prices. The buses outside the capital area are not affected by those changes.

Úlfarsárdalur swimming pool Dagur B. Eggertsson mayor

Tax rates on substances & electric vehicles increase

Municipalities have also upped the fees for some of the services they offer, while the 2024 budget, recently approved by Alþingi, heralds new taxes and adjustments to the existing ones. Tax rates on alcohol and tobacco go up by 3.5 per cent, Morgunblaðið reports. As does the licensing fee for public broadcasting and the gasoline tax. 

The litre will cost an extra ISK 4.20 [$0.03, €0.03], while the litre of diesel goes up by ISK 3.70 [$0.03, €0.02]. The vehicle tax on lighter automobiles rises by 30 per cent as well, while owners of electric cars will need to pay a new fee per kilometre, which for the average driver will amount to ISK 90,000 [$666, €599] per year. 

Owners of hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles will now need to keep track of the mileage of their vehicles and register them on island.is in the beginning of 2024. This procedure must be repeated once a year. The Icelandic government decided to implement this change due to a stark decrease in the state’s revenue from vehicles since 2018 and the ongoing need for the development of road infrastructure. The kilometre fee will be paid monthly. People concerned by this change can visit the government-run website Vegir okkar allra to find out more about this change.

Keflavík Airport
Keflavík Airport

EU travel fee not coming into effect until 2025

The by the EU announced ETIAS waiver program that was initially announced to come into effect in 2024 has been postponed to 2025. So travellers from outside of the EU are not facing registration fees of $7.70 / €7.00 just yet. ETIAS travel authorisation is an entry requirement for visa-exempt travellers who are visiting one of the thirty participating European countries. The entry requirement is valid for up to 90 days in any 180 days. Travellers intending to visit Iceland will also need an ETIAS travel authorisation to enter Iceland from 2025 on. This system will not replace visa requirements for citizens who currently require a visa to visit any EU country, like travellers from China, India and South Africa. 

A central database which will track non-EU residents when entering any EU country called the Entry/Exit system, will presumably come into force in the second half of 2024.

 

President Will Not Seek Re-election

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, president of Iceland, has announced that he will not seek re-election this year. A new president will be elected this summer, RÚV reports.

In his scheduled new year’s address Monday, Guðni announced that he would step down after two terms in office, having served eight years in total. Elected after an eventful campaign in 2016, Guðni had stated that he would serve three terms at most, or 12 years. He said that he carefully considered running for a third term, but that in a democratic society it is not healthy for a person to consider themselves irreplaceable. “I came to the conclusion that it would be better to follow my heart,” he said.

A surprise rise to the presidency

Elections will take place on June 1 and the new president’s term will begin on August 1. So far, no one has officially announced their candidacy, although a number of people are rumoured to be considering a bid. A low threshold is in place for anyone wanting to run, as they only need to collect 1,500 signatures of support to be eligible.

Nine candidates were in the running when Guðni was elected in 2016. The previous president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, had announced on January 1 that he would not seek re-election. The spring of 2016 saw major political turbulence in Iceland with the revelations of Prime Minister’s Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s offshore tax haven holdings in the Panama Papers, leading to his removal from office. As a scholar of the Icelandic presidency, Guðni appeared frequently on live television to analyse the situation. President Ólafur Ragnar briefly entered the race again, citing political turmoil. As support for Guðni to run mounted, he entered the race and Ólafur Ragnar withdrew his candidacy again in the wake of Guðni and former Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson deciding to run.

Guðni received a plurality of 39.1 percent of the votes. In 2020, he handily won re-election with 92.2 percent.

A popular and liberal president

Analysts describe Guðni as a successful and popular president, with an approval rating around 80 percent. He championed liberal viewpoints and didn’t have any major setbacks during his time in office. Guðni remains a professor of history at the University of Iceland, but has been on leave during his service. He could therefore return to academics after his term ends.

Only one president in Iceland’s history has served for fewer years than Guðni. Sveinn Björnsson, Iceland’s first president, was elected when the country became a republic in 1944, but died while still in office in 1952 having served just over seven years.

Iceland’s President Comes to Aid of Fallen Senior at Ikea

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson promptly assisted an elderly man who fell at Ikea, a moment captured in a photo by attorney Katrín Oddsdóttir. Following the incident, medical and police personnel arrived to ensure the man’s well-being.

A “graceful” reaction

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was quick to respond when an elderly man suffered a fall at Ikea in Garðabær yesterday.

Attorney Katrín Oddsdóttir, who was present, captured the moment in a photograph, which she contended was “telling” for this small nation. “Where else in the world would one see a president in Ikea without a security detail, ready to intervene in such a situation?”

In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Katrín lauded the President’s interventions: “I just thought his reaction was graceful,” she observed.

According to Katrín, a loud thud was heard as the elderly man fell backwards in Ikea, creating considerable distress in its wake. “Guðni rushed over and proceeded to sort of manage the situation; the President was there for this man,” Katrín remarked, adding that a nurse was also present, who comported herself like a hero and took good care of the man.

Shortly after, ambulances and police cars arrived at the scene.