President of Iceland

The President of Iceland (Icelandic: Forseti Íslands) is Iceland's elected head of state. The incumbent is Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, who is now in his first term as president, elected in 2016.

The president is elected to a four-year term by popular vote, is not term-limited, and has limited powers. The presidential residence is situated in Bessastaðir in Garðabær, near the capital city Reykjavík.

President of Iceland
Forseti Íslands
Coat of arms of the President of Iceland
Flag of the President of Iceland
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson

since 1 August 2016
Office of the President
Member ofState Council of Iceland
SeatGarðabær, Capital Region
Term lengthFour years
Renewable indefinitely as long as the incumbent wins presidential elections or is uncontested.
Constituting instrumentConstitution of Iceland
PrecursorKing of Iceland
Formation17 June 1944
First holderSveinn Björnsson
President of the Parliament, Prime Minister and President of the Supreme Court.
Salary289,000 annual[1] (2017) (in English) (in Icelandic)


When Iceland became a Republic in 1944 by the passing of a new Constitution the position of King of Iceland was simply replaced by the President of Iceland. A transitional provision of the new constitution stipulated that the first president be elected by the parliament.

Etymology of Forseti

Etymology of the word Forseti from Old Norse is "the presiding one" and it is the name of one of Æsir gods, i.e. the one of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology. He is generally identified with Fosite, a god of the Frisians.

Powers and duties

Executive powers


The President appoints ministers to the Cabinet of Iceland, determines their number and division of assignments. Ministers are not able to resign and must be discharged by the President. The ministers are delegated the President's executive powers and are solely responsible for their actions.

In the aftermath of general elections, the President has the role to designate a party leader (the one that the President considers most likely to be able to form a majority coalition government) to formally start negotiations to form a government.[2] Sveinn Björnsson and Ásgeir Ásgeirsson played highly active roles in the formation of governments, attempting to set up governments that suited their political preferences, whereas Kristján Eldjárn and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir were passive and neutral as to individuals and parties comprising the government.[3]

State Council

The President and the Cabinet meet in the State Council. The Cabinet must inform the President of important matters of the state and drafted bills. During meetings the Cabinet may also suggest convening, adjourning or dissolving the Parliament.

Prosecution and pardoning

The President can decide that the prosecution for an offense be discontinued and can also grant pardon and amnesty.

Legislative powers

Article 2 of the constitution states that the President and the Parliament jointly exercise the legislative power. The President signs bills passed by the Parliament into law and can choose not to sign them, thus in effect vetoing them. Bills vetoed by the President do take effect immediately, should the Parliament not withdraw them, but they must be confirmed in a referendum. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (1996–2016) is the only President to have vetoed legislation from the Parliament, having done so on three occasions (2004, 2010, 2011). This power was originally intended to be used only in extremely extenuating circumstances.[4]

The President has the power to submit bills and resolutions to the Parliament which it must take under consideration. Should the Parliament not be in session the President can issue provisional laws which must conform with the constitution. Provisional laws become void if the Parliament does not confirm them when it convenes. No President has ever submitted bills nor resolutions, nor issued provisional laws.

Article 30 of the constitution states that the President can grant exceptions from laws. No President has ever exercised this authority.


The President convenes the Parliament after general elections and dissolves it. He can temporarily adjourn its sessions and move them if he deems so necessary. Furthermore, the President opens all regular sessions of the Parliament each year.

Ceremonial duties

The President is the designated grand master of the Order of the Falcon.


The president receives a monthly salary of 2,480,341 ISK. Article 9 of the constitution states the salary cannot be lowered for an incumbent President.


Article 12 of the constitution states that the president shall reside in or near Reykjavík. Since inception the official residence of the President has been Bessastaðir which is in Garðabær.


Articles 4 and 5 of the constitution set the following qualifications for holding the presidency:

  • meet the qualifications specified for parliamentarians
  • be at least thirty-five years old
  • have at least 1,500 commendations


Articles 7 and 8 of the constitution state that when the president dies or is otherwise unable to perform his duties, such as when he is abroad or sick, the prime minister, the president of the parliament and the president of the Supreme Court shall collectively assume the power of the office. Their meetings are led by the president of the parliament where they vote on any presidential decisions. The presidential term is completed and a new president is elected by the general public.


Article 11 of the constitution lays out the process by which the president can be removed from office. It states that the president does not bear responsibility for the actions of his government and that he can not be prosecuted without consent of the Parliament. A referendum instigated by the Parliament with 3/4 support must approve of his removal. Once the Parliament has approved of the referendum, the President must temporarily step aside until the results of the referendum are known. The referendum must be held within two months of the vote, and, should the removal be rejected by the people, then the Parliament must immediately be dissolved and a new general election held.

An impeachment has not occurred since the founding of the republic.


There have been six Presidents since the establishment of the republic.

Term: 1 appointed · 2 died in office · 3 uncontested

President Took office Left office Duration Term Prime ministers
1 Sveinn Björnsson Sveinn Björnsson
17 June 1944 25 January 19522 7 years, 7 months, 8 days
(2,778 days)
1 (1944)1 Björn Þórðarson
Ólafur Thors
Stefán Jóhann Stefánsson
Ólafur Thors
Steingrímur Steinþórsson
2 (1945)3
3 (1949)3
Regent of Iceland 1941–1944, later became the first President of Iceland. In 1950 considered forming a government that did not rely on parliamentary support after leaders of the parliamentary parties had reached an impasse. The only President to die in office; this led to a vacancy, the powers of the office being constitutionally vested jointly in the prime minister (Steingrímur Steinþórsson), the President of the Parliament (Jón Pálmason) and the President of the Supreme Court (Jón Ásbjörnsson).
2 Asgeir Asgeirsson Ásgeir Ásgeirsson
1 August 1952 1 August 1968 16 years
(5,844 days)
4 (1952) Steingrímur Steinþórsson
Ólafur Thors
Hermann Jónasson
Emil Jónsson
Ólafur Thors
Bjarni Benediktsson
Ólafur Thors
Bjarni Benediktsson
5 (1956)3
6 (1960)3
7 (1964)3
First president elected by popular vote.
3 Kristján Eldjárn (1982) Kristján Eldjárn
1 August 1968 1 August 1980 12 years
(4,383 days)
8 (1968) Bjarni Benediktsson
Jóhann Hafstein
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Geir Hallgrímsson
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Benedikt Sigurðsson Gröndal
Gunnar Thoroddsen
9 (1972)3
10 (1976)3
At one point considered forming a government that did not rely on parliamentary support after leaders of the parliamentary parties had reached an impasse.
4 Vigdis Finnbogadottir (1985) Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
(born 1930)
1 August 1980 1 August 1996 16 years
(5,844 days)
11 (1980) Gunnar Thoroddsen
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Davíð Oddsson
12 (1984)3
13 (1988)
14 (1992)3
Was the world's first elected female president and overwhelmingly won a contested election in 1988.
5 Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, September 2011 (cropped).jpeg Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
(born 1943)
1 August 1996 1 August 2016 20 years
(7,305 days)
15 (1996) Davíð Oddsson
Halldór Ásgrímsson
Geir Haarde
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
16 (2000)3
17 (2004)
18 (2008)3
19 (2012)
First to use the constitutional authorisation to deny signing a law from the parliament, thus sending the law to a national referendum, on three occasions.

President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson September 2016

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson
(born 1968)
1 August 2016 Incumbent 2 years, 262 days
(992 days)
20 (2016) Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Bjarni Benediktsson
Katrín Jakobsdóttir

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Hvað gerir forseti Íslands og hvaða völd hefur hann?". Vísindavefurinn. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  3. ^ Jóhannesson, Guðni Th. (2016). Fyrstu forsetarnir. p. 196.
  4. ^ Jóhannesson, Guðni Th. (2016). Fyrstu forsetarnir. p. 57.

External links

2008 Icelandic presidential election

An election for the office of President of Iceland was planned to be held in Iceland on 28 June 2008. The incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, first elected in 1996, stated in his New Year's speech that he would contest the election for a fourth term. Ástþór Magnússon, who ran unsuccessfully in 1996 and 2004, ruled out a candidacy. No challenger to the incumbent president filed by the deadline to declare a candidacy on 24 May 2008, and so Ólafur Ragnar's fourth term was won uncontested. He was sworn in on 1 August 2008.

2012 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Iceland on 30 June 2012. The result was a victory for the incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who defeated his nearest rival Thóra Arnórsdóttir by nearly 20% of the vote, and went on to serve a record fifth term as president of Iceland.

2012 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 2012 in Iceland.


Alþingishúsið (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈalθiɲcɪsˌhuːsɪð], The Parliament House) is a classical 19th century structure which stands by Austurvöllur in central Reykjavík, Iceland. It houses Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament. The building was designed by Danish architect Ferdinand Meldahl and built using hewn dolerite from 1880 to 1881.

Alþingishúsið has also housed the Icelandic National Library and Antiquaries Collection, and later the Icelandic National Gallery. The University of Iceland used the first floor of the house from 1911 to 1940, and the President of Iceland had his offices in the building until 1973.

Today, only the debating chamber, a few small meeting rooms and the offices of some of the senior parliamentary staff are actually located in Alþingishúsið. Committee meeting rooms, parliamentarians’ offices and most of Alþingi's secretariat are located in other buildings in the area around Austurvöllur. There are currently plans to build a new building to house these offices and meeting rooms in the area immediately to the west of Alþingishúsið, where there is today a parking lot and a few smaller buildings currently being used by Alþingi and which will be incorporated into the new building.


Bessastaðir (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈpɛsaˌstaːðɪr̥]) is today the official residence of the President of Iceland and is situated in Álftanes, not far from the capital city, Reykjavík.

Coat of arms of Iceland

The coat of arms of Iceland displays a silver-edged, red cross on blue shield. This alludes to the design of the flag of Iceland. The supporters are the four protectors of Iceland (landvættir) as described in Heimskringla, standing on a block of columnar basalt. The bull (Griðungur) is the protector of northwestern Iceland, the eagle or griffin (Gammur) protects northeastern Iceland, the dragon (Dreki) protects the southeastern part, and the rock-giant (Bergrisi) is the protector of southwestern Iceland. Great respect was given to these creatures of Iceland, so much that there was a law during the time of the Vikings that no ship should bear grimacing symbols (most often dragonheads on the bow of the ship) when approaching Iceland. This was so the protectors would not be provoked unnecessarily.The landvættir (“land wights”) also decorate the obverse (front) of the Icelandic króna coins, but animals of the ocean (fish, crabs, and dolphins) appear on the reverse (back).

The Icelandic presidency uses a swallowtailed Icelandic flag with the coat of arms. The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police uses a white flag with the coat of arms, when the use of the State flag is not warranted, and some other state services do as well.

First Lady of Iceland

The First Lady of Iceland refers to the wife of the President of Iceland. The country's current First Lady is Eliza Reid, wife of Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, since 1 August 2016.

There have been no First Gentlemen of Iceland, to date. Iceland's first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, had divorced in 1963 and was unmarried during her tenure as the country's president.

Greece–Iceland relations

Greek–Icelandic relations are foreign, economic and cultural relations between Greece and Iceland. Greece is represented in Iceland through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Reykjavík. Iceland is represented in Greece through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Athens. They have been firm allies for over 60 years, and have reaffirmed their ties recently at the highest levels of contacts.

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson (born 26 June 1968) is an Icelandic politician serving as the 6th and current President of Iceland since 2016. He took office after receiving the largest number of votes in the 2016 election, 71,356 (39.1%). A historian, he was a docent at the University of Iceland until his election. His field of research is modern Icelandic history, and he has published a number of works on the Cod Wars, the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis and the Icelandic presidency, among other topics.

Iceland–Mexico relations

Iceland–Mexico relations refer to bilateral relations between Iceland and Mexico. Both nations are mutual members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

Kristján Eldjárn

Kristján Eldjárn (Icelandic: [ˈkʰrɪstjaun ˈɛltjaurtn̥]; 6 December 1916 – 13 September 1982) was the third President of Iceland, from 1968 to 1980.

His parents were Þórarinn Kr. Eldjárn, a teacher in Tjörn, and Sigrún Sigurhjartardóttir. He graduated in archaeology from the University of Copenhagen and taught at the University of Iceland. In 1957 he was awarded a doctorate for his research into pagan burials in Iceland. He was a teacher at the Akureyri Grammar School and the College of Navigation in Reykjavík, becoming a curator at the National Museum of Iceland in 1945 and its Director in 1947, a position he held until the 1968 presidential election.

In 1966–68 he hosted a series of educational TV programs on the (then new) Icelandic National Television (RÚV), in which he showed the audience some of the National Museum's artefacts and explained their historical context. These programs became quite popular, making him a well known and respected popular figure. This no doubt gave him the incentive needed to run in the 1968 presidential election as a politically non-affiliated candidate.

Starting as the underdog in the 1968 presidential election, running against Ambassador Gunnar Thoroddsen who initially had a 70% lead in the opinion polls, Kristján won 65.6% of the vote on a 92.2% voter turnout. He was re-elected unopposed in 1972 and 1976. In 1980 he decided not to run for another term, wanting to devote his remaining years entirely to continuing his lifelong academic work.

President Kristján Eldjárn died following heart surgery in Cleveland, Ohio on 14 September 1982.His son Þórarinn Eldjárn is one of Iceland's most popular authors, specializing in short stories, but also writing poetry and an occasional novel. His daughter Sigrún Eldjárn is also an author and illustrator of several children's books.

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík (often abbreviated MR; official name in English: Reykjavik Junior College) is the oldest junior college (Icelandic: Menntaskóli) in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The school traces its origin to 1056, when a school was established in Skálholt, and it remains one of the oldest institutions in Iceland. The school was moved to Reykjavík in 1786, but poor housing conditions forced it to move again in 1805 to Bessastaðir near Reykjavík. In 1846 the school was moved to its current location, and a new building was erected for it in Reykjavík. This was the largest building in the country at the time and can be seen on the 500 Icelandic krona bill. It was used initially when Alþingi began to meet again in Reykjavík after a few years hiatus and thus it is in this building where Icelandic independence leader Jón Sigurðsson led the MPs in their famous phrase, 'Vér mótmælum allir'.

The school has previously been known as "Lærði skólinn" (The Learned School), "Latínuskólinn" (The Latin School) and by the Latin title "Scholae Reykjavicensis;" it received its present name in 1937.

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík offers a three-year course of study. It usually ends with a degree (stúdentspróf) which gives the graduating student the right to advance to an Icelandic university.

Many Icelandic politicians, including the first prime minister Hannes Hafstein, former Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson and the former President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, attended MR. Almost every Prime Minister of Iceland has been educated at the school apart from Halldór Ásgrímsson, Ólafur Jóhannesson, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson and Þorsteinn Pálsson. Geir H. Haarde, Davíð's successor as chairman of the Independence Party and former Prime Minister, also took over from him as chairman of student body, Skólafélagið ("inspector scholae"). In 1879 Hannes Hafstein was the school's first inspector scholar, and in 1940 his grandson Einar Ragnarsson Kvaran achieved the position. The former President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, was also the president of the main student body, Framtíðin.

Order of the Falcon

The Order of the Falcon (Icelandic: Hin íslenska fálkaorða) is the only Order of Chivalry of Iceland, founded by King Christian X of Denmark and Iceland on 3 July 1921. The award is awarded for merit for Iceland and humanity and has five degrees. Nowadays, appointments are made on the nomination of the President of Iceland and that of a "five-member council".

Timeline of Icelandic history

This is a timeline of Icelandic history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Iceland and its predecessor states. To read about the background to these events, see history of Iceland.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (Icelandic: [ˈvɪɣtis ˈfɪn.pɔɣaˌtoʊhtɪr] (listen); born 15 April 1930) served as the fourth President of Iceland from 1 August 1980 to 1 August 1996. She was the world's first democratically directly elected female president. With a presidency of exactly sixteen years, she also remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date. Currently, she is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and a Member of the Club of Madrid. She is also to-date Iceland's only female president.


Álftanes is a town and low-lying peninsula which extrudes from the eastern part of Reykjanes, located in Iceland's Capital Region.

The municipality of Álftanes was merged into the neighboring municipality of Garðabær in January 2013. Álftanes had a population of 2,484 as of January 2011. The town contains the official residence of the President of Iceland, Bessastaðir.

Ásgeir Ásgeirsson

Ásgeir Ásgeirsson (Icelandic: [ˈausceir̥ ˈausceir̥sɔn]; 13 May 1894 – 15 September 1972) was the second President of Iceland, from 1952 to 1968. He was a Freemason and served as Grandmaster of the Icelandic Order of Freemasons.

Ástþór Magnússon

Ástþór Magnússon Wium (born 4 August 1953) is an Icelandic businessman and peace activist, who is best known as a perennial candidate for the office of President of Iceland.

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (Icelandic: [ˈouːlavʏr ˈraknar ˈkrimsɔn] (listen); born 14 May 1943) is an Icelandic politician who was President of Iceland from 1996 to 2016. He was first elected in 1996, and was elected unopposed for a second term in 2000. Ólafur was re-elected for a third term in 2004 (with opposition), for a fourth term in 2008 (unopposed), and for a record fifth and final term in 2012 (with opposition).

Ólafur announced in his New Year's message on 1 January 2016, that he would be stepping down from the presidency at the end of his fifth term on 1 August 2016, after twenty years in office. However, he announced in a press conference on 18 April 2016 that he would be running for re-election, in light of the political instability caused by the release of the Panama Papers two weeks earlier. After Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Davíð Oddsson announced their candidacies, he again changed his mind and on 9 May declared he would not run.Since the end of his presidency, Ólafur has been serving as Chairman of the Arctic Circle, a non-profit organization, and as Chairman of the International Renewable Energy Agency's Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation.

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