Iceland votes in tight presidential election

3 women candidates face off in closely contested race

Leila Nezirevic  | 01.06.2024 - Update : 03.06.2024
Iceland votes in tight presidential election File Photo


Icelanders head to the polls Saturday to elect the seventh president in the presidential election with the top three women candidates in close proximity, according to local media.

The hugely popular incumbent Gudni Johannesson, who has held the position since 2016 and was re-elected in 2020 with a massive 92% of the vote, is not standing again after two terms in office.

Polling stations opened from 0900GMT. The first results are expected from 2200GMT.

Voters must choose between 12 candidates, including Katrin Jakobsdottir, who surprised the country in April after she announced that she will be stepping down as the prime minister to run for president.

Polls released on Thursday show a close race between three women candidates, with one survey indicating Jakobsdottir with a clear lead.

However, another poll suggested a draw between Jakobsdottir and equality advocate and businessperson Halla Tomasdottir, who also leads in one poll and ranks second place in another.

Meanwhile, Halla Hrund Logadottir and Baldur Thorhallsson are behind, in third and fourth places, respectively, according to national broadcaster RUV.

Friday’s poll published by the daily Morgunbladid shows Jakobsdottir in the lead with 26%, while Tomasdottir was right behind with 24%, and Logadottir, an environmental expert, stood at 19%.

Jakobsdottir, the party leader for the Left-Green Movement and who also served as the head of the left-right coalition government from 2017 in her campaign spoke about safeguarding Iceland’s “core values” — democracy, human rights, and equality, while Tomasdottir focused on business ethics, sustainability, and equality.

Presidential contenders during debates discussed the country's NATO membership, the Israeli war on Gaza, arms deliveries to Ukraine, use of presidential veto powers, and the sale of Iceland's national power company, according to RUV.

The candidate who secures the most votes will become the head of state in the single-round election and serve for four years.

In Iceland, the president holds a ceremonial position in the parliamentary republic, acting as a guarantor of the constitution and national unity, however the president can also play a role during a government formation process and can refuse to dissolve the parliament.

Iceland faces uncertainty after recent volcanic eruptions caused major damage in the town of Grindavik, in the southwest of the country, adding to pressures on an economy already facing high inflation and soaring interest rate.

The nation of around 400,000 people went to polls five times from 2007 to 2017, in a period marked by political scandals and distrust of politicians following the 2008 financial crisis.

The election results are expected early Sunday.

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