Record Number of Presidential Candidates in Iceland

Bessastaðir, official residence of the President of Iceland.

There are 11 official candidates in Iceland’s Presidential election this June 1. The National Electoral Commission has reviewed the documents of all 13 candidates who submitted their endorsements last Friday, ruling two applications as invalid, RÚV reports. The number of official candidates is a record for the country, and includes Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who resigned as Prime Minister in order to run.

Submitted only nine endorsements

Candidates hoping to run in a presidential election in Iceland must collect and submit a minimum of 1,500 endorsements (signatures of support) from all four quadrants of the country. One of the two candidates whose application was deemed invalid had submitted only nine signatures of endorsement. The other was several hundred endorsements short of the minimum.

Read More: How do I become President of Iceland?

Between Iceland’s first presidential election in 1952 until the 2004 election, there were never more than four candidates running for the position, and on two occasions there were just two candidates. Since 2004, the number of candidates in presidential elections has grown. In 2012 there were six official candidates and in 2016 there were nine. In Iceland’s last presidential election, in 2020, there were only two.

The presidential candidates are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • Arnar Þór Jónsson
  • Ásdís Rán Gunnarsdóttir
  • Ástþór Magnússon Wium
  • Baldur Þórhallsson
  • Eiríkur Ingi Jóhannsson
  • Halla Hrund Logadóttir
  • Halla Tómasdóttir
  • Helga Þórisdóttir
  • Jón Gnarr
  • Katrín Jakobsdóttir
  • Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir

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Presidential Veto Power Under Scrutiny Amid Election Campaigns

Presidential hopefuls discuss the presidency

During a panel discussion yesterday, former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir addressed potential conflicts of interest in her capacity as president when it came to signing legislation that she had previously initiated. She emphasised the importance of impartiality in exercising veto powers, particularly when addressing a significant disconnect between the parliament and the public. Presidential candidate Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir has expressed her scepticism regarding Katrín’s claims.

Vetoed legislation submitted to a secret ballot

Presidential candidates Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Halla Tómasdóttir, and Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir were guests on Vísir’s panel show Pallborðið yesterday. At the time of recording, Katrín was enjoying 31% support in a recently conducted Gallup poll, while Halla had 4% support compared to Steinunn Ólína’s 1%.

During the panel, Katrín was asked about the potential conflict of interest in signing laws from parliament that she herself had been involved in initiating.

This power to veto legislation is enshrined in Article 26 of Iceland’s Constitution: “If Parliament has passed a bill, it shall be submitted to the President of the Republic for confirmation not later than two weeks after it has been passed. Such confirmation gives it the force of law. If the President rejects a bill, it shall nevertheless become valid but shall, as soon as circumstances permit, be submitted to a vote by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote, for approval or rejection. The law shall become void if rejected, but otherwise retains its force.”

“A divide been parliament and the people”

Katrín responded by stating that all of the candidates running for president had their personal political views but that the president should be objective in her decision to veto legislation and call for a national referendum. Katrín suggested that the appropriate time to use this power was when a “divide had arisen between the people and parliament” (gjá milli þings og þjóðar).

Katrín also noted that given her time in parliament, her political views were part of the public record: “In my case, my actions are completely transparent, and people can judge whether I was solely driven by my own views or if I indeed strived to make decisions in the office of President, or Prime Minister, that served the greater good.”

Katrín concluded by underscoring the expectation of impartiality in her duties, especially concerning the use of veto rights, reflecting the public’s higher expectations of her in these respects, Vísir reports.

“Treason, underway”

This morning, presidential candidate Steinunn Ólína Kristjánsdóttir – a guest during yesterday’s Vísir panel – pushed back against Katrín’s claims of impartiality. In a video posted online, Steinunn addressed an aquaculture bill being debated in Parliament and submitted by Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Bjarkey Olsen (of the Left-Green Movement). The bill has been heavily criticised by the Federation of Icelandic River Owners and the Icelandic Wildlife Fund.

If the bill was approved, Icelanders would give patent holders in marine aquaculture indefinite access and control over “our beautiful Icelandic fjords in the West and East,” Steinunn maintained, adding that Katrín’s conflicting interests would put her in a difficult position in the event she was elected president.

“Regrettably, we are now witnessing what the presidential veto power in Iceland entails, and thus, who occupies the office of the President of Iceland when this bill goes to vote in parliament will matter. If Katrín Jakobsdóttir is then in the office of President of Iceland, the outcome is foreseen. Who would believe that she, as President of Iceland, would reject a bill crafted by her party colleagues during her administration?”

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

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.

Prime Minister to Announce Decision on Presidential Bid Today

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is expected to announce her decision on a potential presidential bid today, amid widespread speculation and a government meeting held early this morning. A political scientist has referred to the situation as “unprecedented.”

Expected to announce her decision today

A government meeting began at 8:30 AM in the Umbra building at Skuggasund in downtown Reykjavík, Mbl.is reports. There is much speculation about a possible presidential run by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and she is expected to announce her decision today.

As noted by Mbl.is, many believe that Katrín will ask to be relieved of her duties for herself and her ministry if she decides to run. The coalition parties will then attempt to form a new government under another leader.

Parliament reconvenes on Monday after the Easter break, and by then, it is expected to be clear whether Katrín will proceed with her candidacy.

An unprecedented situation

“It is clear that this has never happened before in Icelandic politics,” professor of political science Ólafur Þ. Harðarson told RÚV earlier this week. Ólafur believes that a presidential bid by the sitting Prime Minister could cause all sorts of problems in the coalition government.

“Especially in a coalition partnership that has been as fragile as the current one has been for the last two or three years,” Ólafur noted, adding that he believes Katrín would not want to run for President of Iceland unless she has ensured that a peaceful solution is reached for the continuation of the government’s life. Instability in the government is simply not a good starting point for her possible candidacy.

“I believe she will do everything to avoid that, and from what I hear from the leaders of the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, they are very keen on resolving this matter peacefully,” Ólafur continued, highlighting that none of the governing parties wants to go to elections early. Additionally, it would signal disintegration if presidential and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously.

Sixty-eight individuals are currently gathering endorsements for presidential bids. As noted on IR, former mayor of Reykjavík and comedian Jón Gnarr announced that he would be running for president in a social media post earlier this week. Two new candidates have also tossed their hats into the ring: actress Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir and Guðmundur Felix Grétarsson. Political scientist Baldur Þórhallsson has been polling strongly.

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.

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.

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson Re-elected President in Landslide Victory

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

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.”

Support Grows for Guðni in Upcoming Election

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

An overwhelming majority, or 93.5% of respondents in a recent poll stated they will vote for incumbent Guðni Th. Jóhannesson in Iceland’s upcoming Presidential election, RÚV reports. Guðni’s opponent Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson was the candidate of choice for 6.5% of respondents in the poll conducted by Gallup between June 11-18.

These numbers show more support for Guðni than in an earlier poll, where 90.4% of respondents said they would vote for the incumbent president who is currently finishing his first term. More women than men supported Guðni, with 98% of female respondents saying they would vote for him and 89% of male respondents. When party affiliation was considered, 55% of respondents that support the Centre Party stated they would vote for Guðmundur Franklín, while a large majority of supporters of all other parties stated they would vote for Guðni.

Read More: What can you tell me about Iceland’s upcoming presidential election?

Just over 6% of respondents stated they would not be voting or that they would turn in a blank ballot. Iceland’s presidential election takes place this Saturday, June 27.

What can you tell me about Iceland’s upcoming presidential election?

Bessastaðir, official residence of the President of Iceland.

Iceland will hold a presidential election on Saturday, June 27. There are two candidates on the ballot this election: incumbent Guðni Th. Jóhannsson, currently finishing his first term, and Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson. A recent poll showed 90.5% support for Guðni.

Who is Eligible to Vote

Only Icelandic citizens aged 18 or older on election day are eligible to vote in presidential elections. (The only exception to this is Danish nationals residing in Iceland on March 6, 1946 or at any point in the 10 years before that date.) Icelandic nationals who have legally resided abroad for more than eight years must apply to Registers Iceland to be entered into the electoral register.

How and Where to Vote

Icelandic nationals who are eligible to vote can find their polling station by typing in their kennitala on the Registers Iceland website. Voters must present a valid form of identification in order to vote. Most polling stations will be open from 9.00am to 10.00pm, but these hours may vary, so voters are encouraged to check the hours of their individual polling station.

Advanced polling stations are also open at District Commissioner (Sýslumaður) Offices across the country until election day. Information about advance voting can be found on their websites.