Presidential elections 2020 – The Candidates

18.06.2020 - 11:14
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: RÚV
On 27th June Icelanders will choose their president. Two candidates are on the ballot: incumbent president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson. Below are profiles on both candidates and answers to practical questions regarding the vote.
Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson

Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson is standing in Iceland’s presidential election on 27th June. He was the only prospective challenger who managed to collect enough nominations to launch a campaign against the incumbent president.

Guðmundur Franklín founded the Hægri grænir (Right Greens) political party—which was intended as a right-wing green party—and has more recently been a vocal opponent of Iceland passing the EU’s Third Energy Package into law. He has criticised the current president for not campaigning against the Energt Package. Unlike Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Guðmundur Franklín is in favour of pineapple on pizza and recently posted a picture on social media posing with a pineapple pizza.

Age, education, and career

Guðmundur Franklín was born in Reykjavík on 31st October 1963 and is the son of Jón Ingiberg Bjarnason, agronomist, and Guðbjörg Lilja Maríusdóttir, housewife. He grew up in the Vogahverfi neighbourhood. He has three children; Árni Franklín, Veronika, and Vigdís Lilja; with his former wife, Ásdís Helga Árnadóttir.

Guðmundur Franklín studied at Verzlunarskóli Íslands (Verzló) for two years and finished his final exams at Fjölbrautaskólinn við Ármúla after working in the USA for a while. He returned to the United States, where he studied at Johnson & Wales University, gaining a B.Sc. in business and economics. He is a legally-certified stockbroker in the USA.

Age and background

56 years old. Born in Reykjavík, 31 October 1963. Son of Jón Ingiberg Bjarnason, agronomist, and Guðbjörg Lilja Maríusdóttir, housewife.


Three children with Ásdís Helga Árnadóttir, his former wife. Their names are Árni Franklín, Veronika, and Vigdís Lilja.


College examinations at Fjölbrautaskólinn við Ármúla. B.Sc. in business and economics from Johnson & Wales University in USA. Guiding licence from the Icelandic School of Travel.

Guðmundur Franklín was a Wall Street stockbroker in the 1990s, until the tech bubble burst around the turn of the millennium.

He studied for a master’s degree in international politics at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic from 2005-2008. He founded the Bellagio Hotel in Prague, which he ran from 2002-2009. He was a teacher at the University of New York in Prague in 2005-2006. He completed his guide training at the Icelandic School of Travel in 2012 and has been the manager of Hotel Klippen in Gudhjem on Bornholm island in Denmark since 2013.

Guðmundur Franklín founded the Hægri grænir political party in 2010 and was the party leader until 2013. He was expected to stand for president in 2016, but threw his support behind incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson when he decided to stand for a record sixth term in office. Ólafur Ragnar later withdrew his candidacy.

Guðmundur Franklín stood for Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) primary election in autumn 2016 but did not make it onto the party’s electoral list. He was active within the Orkan okkar pressure group that fought the passing of the Third Energy Package into law and has written a large number of articles and columns on national affairs. He left Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn in 2019 over the party’s stance on the Energy Package, having been active in party politics for around three decades.

Policy platform

Guðmundur Franklín wants to make the office of president more active in politics and advocates that presidents should be ready and willing to refuse to sign controversial bills into law—thereby sending them to national referendum instead. He has named the Third Energy Package as an example of such a law.

In a recent interview on RÚV’s Spegillinn programme, he said, however, that if elected, he would use the presidential right to send laws to public vote very sparingly and only when “a deep divide between parliament and the nation” arises.

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Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has been President of the Republic of Iceland for the past four years and is standing for re-election. He is the sixth President of the Republic and was first elected on 25th June 2016.

During his four-year term, the office of President has moved closer to its role during the presidency of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir: a symbol of national unity. Guðni has proven popular and is often seen cycling to school with his children and has continued to attend their sporting events along with the other parents. He also garnered worldwide attention for his ambivalence to pineapple on pizza.

Age, education, and career

Guðni was born in Reykjavík on 26th June 1968 and is the son of Margrét Thorlacius, a teacher and journalist, and Jóhannes Sæmundsdóttir, a sports teacher and national coach who passed away in 1983. Guðni grew up in Garðabær and is therefore on home turf at Bessastaðir (the official presidential residence), since the municipality of Álftanes merged with Garðabær in 2012.

Guðni met his wife, Eliza Reid, during his time studying at Oxford in the UK. Eliza is Canadian. They have lived together in Iceland since Guðni finished his doctorate. They have four children: Duncan Tindur, Donald Gunnar, Sæþór Peter, and Edda Margrét. Guðni has another daughter called Rut from his previous marriage to Elína Haraldsdóttir.

Guðni finished school at Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík in 1987 and completed his BA at the University of Warwick in the UK in 1991. After completing his Master’s degree at the University of Iceland in 1997, he studied history at Oxford; completing his M.St. He completed his doctorate in history from Queen Mary University in London in 2003. Guðni has also studied Russian and German.

Guðni taught history at the University of Iceland in 2013-2016, ending as a professor. He has also taght at Reykjavík University, Bifröst University, and the University of London. He has written a large number of history books; including on the office of the President of Iceland, and on the 1968-1980 presidency of Kristján Eldjárn.

Age and background

51 years old, born in Reykjavík, 26th June 1968. The son of Margrét Thorlacius, teacher and journalist, and Jóhannes Sæmundsson, sports teacher and national team coach.


Eliza Reid is Guðni’s wife. Their four children are called Duncan Tindur, Donald Gunnar, Sæþór Peter, and Edda Margrét. Guðni has one child, Rut, from his previous marriage.


College examinations at Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík. BA in history and political science from the University of Warwick (UK). MA in history from the University of Iceland. M.St. in history from Oxford University (UK). Doctoral degree in history from Queen Mary University of London (UK).

Guðni taught history at the University of Iceland in 2013-2016, ending as a professor. He has also taght at Reykjavík University, Bifröst University, and the University of London. He has written a large number of history books; including on the office of the President of Iceland, and on the 1968-1980 presidency of Kristján Eldjárn.

During his time in office, Guðni has brought the presidency closer to how it used to be during the time of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir insofar as they both believe the president should be a point for national unity and not wade into contentious national debates. Since taking office, he has rejected the pay rises his role has been awarded, instead donating the money to charitable causes.

Guðni has been a popular president and had over 90 percent support in early June, according to the first Gallup poll leading up to the presidential election this summer.

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Where do I vote?

Presidential elections are held at designated polling stations on polling day. Polling stations do not all open and close at the same time. It is therefore important for voters to check their registered polling station beforehand. Voters can enter their kennitala on the Registers Iceland website to see which polling station they are assigned to.

Polling stations are split up into precincts. Instructions on which presinct citizens vote in can be found at the polling station. In many cases the information is also available on the Registers Iceland website.

Voters must bring a valid form of identification in order to receive a ballot paper.

When are polling stations open?

Polling stations are usually open from 09.00 until 22.00 on election day, but individual polling stations may open later or close earlier. Local municipalities are responsible for advertising these polling stations and their opening hours.

How do I vote early?

It is possible to vote before election day. In Iceland, early voting takes place at district commissioners’ offices (Sýslumaður) all over the country. Information on where to vote before polling day is available on the Sýsluumenn website. Overseas, it is possible to vote at Icelandic embassies and consulates, as well as through honorary consuls. District commissioners in Iceland also coordinate early voting at hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions where voters are either resident or receiving treatment. Such voting takes place as close to polling day as possible.

Those who vote early usually have to arrange it themselves and bear the cost of sending their ballot to their registered polling district. Those who vote early in their own voting district are usually able to post their vote straight into a ballot box.

Am I eligible to vote?

All Icelandic citizens aged 18 and over on polling day, with their legal address in Iceland, are eligible to vote in elections.

Icelandic citizens who moved their legal address overseas after 1st December 2011 and are aged 18 or over can also vote.

Further details are available on the government website.

When will the results be known?

Presidential election results will be announced by each of Iceland’s six voting districts, which are the same as in elections to Alþingi: Northwest, Northeast, South, Southwest, Reykjavík North, and Reykjavík South. Further details on which municipalities belong to each district can be found here.

It is likely that the first numbers will be available as soon as polling stations close at 22.00. The result of the election itself will not be confirmed until all votes cast have been counted. In all likelihood, that will be in the early hours of Sunday 28th June.

Why have an election?

Presidential elections are held every four years if more than one valid candidacy is received by electoral authorities in all six voting districts. President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson announced in his New Year’s address that he would seek re-election. Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson also decided to put himself forward for election.

If only one valid nomination is received, he or she is elected without a vote. Sitting presidents have been re-elected without a vote on six occasions. Presidential elections have been held eight times in the Republic of Iceland. The 2020 presidential election will be the country’s ninth. A summary of all presidential elections in Iceland since the Republic was established in 1944 can be found here.

I voted early. Can I vote on polling day?

Yes. Voters are permitted to vote on polling day if they have voted early through the district commissioner or diplomatic services overseas. In such cases, their early vote is not counted; only their polling day vote.

How will RÚV report the election?

Jóhanna Vigdís Hjaltadóttir and Bogi Ágústsson will present live television coverage on election night, starting when polling stations close at 22.00. The newest voting figures will be displayed and discussed with knowledgable guests as soon as they are released. RÚV journalists will be out around the country, taking the pulse of the nation, and RÚV will hear directly from both candidates when the result starts to become clear.

RÚV English will also cover the election with articles on and the RÚV English Facebook page.

Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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