Iceland's new president heads to European Championship after election

Historian and football fan Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson said Sunday he was heading to France to watch "our football boys" play England in the round of sixteen in Nice shortly after declaring victory in Iceland's presidential election.

Independent candidate Johannesson had a 39.1-per-cent share of votes with more than 90 per cent of ballots counted on Sunday, putting him well ahead of nearest rival Halla Tomasdottir at 27.9 per cent.

The remaining seven candidates lagged far behind. In Iceland a simple majority suffices for a victory.

"I would not have thought that it would be so close between me and Halla," said Johannesson in Reykjavik. He had been a clear favourite in the presidential race.

Due to the ongoing European Championship, Iceland had expected a low voter turnout.

The Interior Ministry had even set up a polling station in France near the national football team's camp in Annecy, where fans have followed their team into the knockout stage of the championship.

In the end, more people than expected turned out with preliminary figures saying 185,000 out of 245,000 of those eligible to vote made it to the polling station.

The election was eclipsed by a national fervour surrounding the Icelandic football team's success so far in the Euro 2016.

But Johannesson had yet another reason to party, as he also celebrated his 48th birthday on Sunday.

Singer Johanna Vigdis Arnardottir serenaded him with a rendering of the birthday song, including the words "Happy birthday, Mr President" - alluding to Marilyn Monroe's version for former US president John F Kennedy.

Johannesson, a historian, came to prominence in April as a public commentator on the case of former premier Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who resigned over leaked data in the Panama Papers suggesting he and his wife had an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.

"We will almost certainly have parliament elections next fall," Johannesson told voters.

The presidency is largely a ceremonial role, but it does influence the formation of government.

Johannesson's first day in office will be August 1, when he succeeds Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who did not want to stand again after 20 years and five terms in office.

Last update: Sun, 26/06/2016 - 14:44
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