From Iceland — Would The Next President Of Iceland Please Step Forward

Would The Next President Of Iceland Please Step Forward

Published May 9, 2024

Would The Next President Of Iceland Please Step Forward
Photo by
Sveinbjörn Pálsson/AI Illustration

Ten candidates lay out their presidential goals and motivations


On the first day of 2024, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson put on his best suit to deliver a New Year’s address. Though Guðni had planned this for months, few, aside from his family and a handful of aides, knew the address to be his last. President Guðni announced he would not seek reelection. 

Before being elected in 2016, Guðni didn’t seem a likely candidate for the office. A historian and university professor, he was planted in the limelight during the Panama papers scandal which implicated former prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who continues to serve as an MP, and Independence Party MP Bjarni Benediktsson, who has since ascended to the prime minister’s office. Guðni was a regular talking head on various media outlets, presenting a voice of reason, logic and trust that cut through the noise of the scandal.

His calm level-headedness resonated with the people, as reflected in his electoral victories — he garnered 39.1% of the vote in 2016 and 92% when re-elected in 2020 — and his consistently high approval ratings during his nearly eight years in office. 

Not that Guðni’s tenure has been without scandal. Controversy came to the fore when, in 2017, he expressed his disdain for pineapple on pizza. The issue, dubbed Pizzagate, sparked a light-hearted global backlash against the president. Despite a local electorate of Hawaiian pizza lovers, the scandal didn’t diminish Guðni’s popularity.

So, who’s next?

When the president announced his decision at the start of the year, no obvious successors sprung out of the woodwork. Perennial candidates like the peace-loving Ástþór Magnússon — who has pined after the presidency since 1996 — and conspiracy theorist Axel Pétur Axelsson tossed their names in the presidential hat early in the process. More “serious” candidates — who have since seen the most success in pre-election polling — bided their time. 

Then, one by one, the candidates emerged.

Running for the office of the Icelandic presidency is pretty straightforward. Candidates are independent; they need to be an Icelandic citizen over the age of 35; and they need to collect at least 1.500 individual endorsements in the online government portal to be eligible for the elections. 

That low threshold saw the number of candidates balloon to 81 by the time endorsement signatures were coming due — and that doesn’t include the dozens more who had accidentally signalled their intention to run when attempting to log in to the portal simply to endorse their candidate of choice. When the Grapevine’s editorial team contacted potential candidates for a questionnaire, one admitted to us rather sheepishly, “It was just a joke.”

In a survey conducted by Prósent in April, only four candidates were polling higher than 5%. Former prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir led the race at 31%; Baldur Þórhallson was second at 28%; Halla Hrund Logadóttir had 16%; and Jón Gnarr rounded out the front-runners at 15% support. All other candidates measured at less than 5%.

Presumably not joking about their aspiration to move into the presidential residence at Bessastaðir are the 11 candidates who submitted their requisite endorsements and are now officially on the ballot for the June 1 election. Ten of them responded to the Grapevine’s questionnaire ahead of our publication deadline. 

Here is what they want voters to know.

Click the images or candidate names to read the candidates’ full, uncut responses. 

Arnar Þór Jónsson

Ásdís Rán Gunnarsdóttir

Ástþór Magnússon Wium

Baldur Þórhallsson

Halla Hrund Logadóttir

Halla Tómasdóttir

Helga Þórisdóttir

Jón Gnarr

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir

Author’s note: Eiríkur Ingi Jóhannsson didn’t reply to repeated requests to complete our questionnaire. Also, moments before our last publication went off to the printers, the National Electoral Commission confirmed the candidacy of Viktor Traustason who previously was thought to be out of the running. That makes the presidential candidates 12.Candidate 

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