Historian Johannesson takes office as Iceland's president

Newly elected Icelandic President Gudni Th Johannesson said he was committed to be a unifying force, but vowed "to point out both things that are well done and others that could be done better" after he took office on Monday.

The 48-year-old historian, who specializes in the presidency of Iceland, was elected June 25. He ran as an independent, beating eight other candidates to succeed Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who stepped down after 20 years in office.

Johannesson is the North Atlantic nation's sixth head of state, and its youngest to date. In his inaugural speech he underlined "the value of settling for partial victories and making compromises."

Johannesson won public acclaim for television appearances in April, when he commented on the Panama Papers, a massive data leak that prompted the then prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to resign.

The documents suggest Gunnlaugsson and his wife had an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands, but both deny any wrongdoing.

While largely playing a ceremonial role, the president does influence the formation of government. The presidential term is four years.

After his instatement in a ceremony in parliament, Johannesson and his Canadian-born wife Eliza Reid stepped out onto a balcony and were cheered by thousands of people assembled on the Austurvollur square that faces the parliament building in central Reykjavik.

Lawmakers, a dozen ambassadors, members of the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson as well as Grimsson and Grimsson's predecessor, Vigdis Finnbogadottir – Europe's first female president - were among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

Before the instatement, a service of worship was held at Reykjavik cathedral, adjacent to parliament.

Johannesson's election win was somewhat overshadowed by the country's unexpected success in the Euro 2016 football championships. The team's debut in a major championship excited the country of 330,000 people, and Johannesson also saw some matches in France, as did Grimsson.

Early Monday, Johannesson was seen raising the national flag outside his home, wearing an Iceland football shirt.

He has five children, four of whom are by Reid, a freelance writer and editor of Iceland Air's in-flight magazine.

The couple and their four children will move into the official presidential residence, Bessastadir, after some renovation work has been completed.

Last update: Mon, 01/08/2016 - 19:30
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