Icelanders Elect Historian as First New President in Two Decades

Icelanders elected Gudni Th. Johannesson, an Oxford-educated historian, as the country’s first new president in two decades.

The associate professor at the University of Iceland won 38.9 percent of the vote, according to a tally of 174,592 ballots on the website of state-broadcaster RUV. He was almost 11 percentage points clear of Audur Capital co-founder Halla Tomasdottir and also beat author Andri Snaer Magnason and former premier David Oddsson.

He will in August replace Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who decided against running for a sixth four-year term as head of state of the 334,000-people nation. Johannesson has vowed to give voters more power to demand referendums on pressing issues after years of financial and political upheaval on the North Atlantic island.

“I will do everything I can to be the unifying power that the nation needs and deserves,” Johannesson, who also turned 48 on Sunday, said in a televised speech at victory rally.

Icelanders elect presidents by plurality. It’s a largely ceremonial post. A parliamentary election is slated to be held after September.

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