Iceland President’s second term: a beer with Jóhannesson

Iceland President's second term: a beer with Jóhannesson

Iceland’s president is a football fan and stays away from the economic clue. With 92.2 percent of the votes, he takes up the second term.

It was a slightly different ceremony than usual. The Icelandic President’s term of office began on Saturday. In the otherwise crowded plenary hall of Parliament in Reykjavík, Guðni Jóhannesson could only be celebrated by a group of 29 people. Actually 90 were planned. But the day before, the health authority tightened the restrictions again due to new cases of corona infections. The two-meter distance rule, which was abolished on May 25, was reintroduced. Shaking hands was taboo anyway and the party at the presidential office in Bessastaðir was completely canceled.

Guðni Jóhannesson will be able to console himself that he was allowed to complete the entire program four years ago. Then, as the successor to Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who had been in office for 20 years, he also began his first term on August 1st. Because the sixth president of the Republic of Iceland apparently liked it, he was put up for re-election and was able to prove how popular he is with the Icelanders at the end of June. In the election, only 7.8 percent had been able to warm up for his opponent Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson, while he himself narrowly missed the record of a predecessor at 92.2: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir set it up in 1988 with 92.7 percent.

Polls indicate that the Icelanders above all benefit their old and new president, that he has kept election promises on how to unite the disputed country and interfere less in everyday politics. It certainly helped him that he was never a politician and kept his distance from the wedge economy that was widespread in Icelandic politics. Another innovation: when he took office at the age of 48, the youngest president had brought life to the presidential residence with his then three-year-old daughter and three sons between the ages of 5 and 9: children now live there for the first time since independence in 1944.

After studying politics and history in Reykjavík, London and Oxford, where he met his Canadian wife Eliza, Guðni Jóhannesson worked first as a journalist, then as a history professor, who also translated Stephen King novels into Icelandic. The multi-lingual – including Russian and German – also wants to be “President, someone with whom one likes to have a beer”, and he has principles: He turned his back on the Catholic Church when they swept away the criminal abuse cases of her priests tried.

The president is a die-hard football fan. In Iceland, the Stjarnan women’s team is “his” team, internationally Manchester United. When asked about his leadership personality he wanted to be in a TV interview, he named Jürgen Klopp. The German coach, who gave Liverpool the championship title again after 30 years, is “tough but modest”: “This is the kind of president I want to be.”

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