Guðni Th. Jóhannesson officially assumes the office of the President of Iceland today, bringing to a close the 20-year reign of outgoing president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.
RÚV reports that Ólafur officially vacated his post at midnight last night. While the office is provisionally in the hands of the President of Parliament, the President of the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister, at 16:00 today Guðni will officially be Iceland’s 6th president since gaining independence in 1944.
By request of Guðni, the official handing-over ceremony will be a bit less formal than it has been in years past. For example, the strict dress code normally in place will be more relaxed. UPDATE: His inaugural address has also been translated into English, and can be read here.
In a recent interview with The Grapevine, Guðni told us that one of the things he is most looking forward to as President is having an influence on society.
“I have worked for decades now as an academic and an historian, and my aim has always been to connect with the public,” he told us. “There’s always a danger in academia that you end up losing touch with the public, or you only write for a very specialised field of academics. You get stuck in the ivory tower. I, however, have always felt that it is the duty of academics to influence the public vision of your field, and in my case it happens to be history, so I wanted to be able to say that my work changes the way people look at the past. Now, I want to change the way people look at the present and the future. It’s the same object, but a different time frame.”
Joining him is his wife, Canadian-born writer (and former Grapevine contributor) Eliza Reid, who hopes to continue to emphasise the work she has been doing within Iceland’s literary culture.
Guðni won last June’s presidential elections with just over 39% of the vote, some 11 points ahead of the nearest contender, entrepreneur and lecturer Halla Tómasdóttir. In his acceptance speech, Guðni said that the campaign had been stressful, especially when the first round of ballots had been counted. He said that he trusts he will have the continued support of the country, as important work awaits him, adding that he will devote himself to being the unifying force that Icelanders deserve.
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