Presidential Elections

Electoral system

The president of Iceland is elected through a direct popular vote for a four-year term. Elections take place in one round and there are no opportunities for rankordering the candidates. Voters are asked to indicate their most favoured candidate, and the candidate that obtains the most votes is duly elected. The president is politically almost powerless but has traditionally exercized moral authority and represented a symbol for national unity in the country. Hence, presidential elections are not fought on the basis of political parties but rather on the personalities of the candidates. Note that presidential elections are usually uncontested when the incumbent president indicates that (s)he wants to continue in office. A sitting president standing for a consecutive term has only been opposed twice, in 1988 and 2004, and on both occasions the sitting president won easily. After 1990, presidential candidates have been re-elected unopposed in 1992 and 2000.

Latest elections

Election results 2004. Constituencies

In the presidential election held in June 2004, turnout in the election was lower than in any previous presidential election: 62.9 percent (compared to 85.9 percent in 1996). The post-election survey showed that about one in every five non-voters said that they did not vote because they did not like any of the candidates, while four in every five stated other reasons like being abroad or away, disinterest, lack of time, seeing no purpose in voting, or that considering Grímsson a certain winner (Hardarson & Kristinsson, 2005).

Grímsson, being a favorite in the pre-election polls, won a predictable victory, obtaining 85.6 percent of the valid votes, compared to 12.5 percent for Ágústsson and 1.9 percent for Magnússon. The very high proportion of blank ballots, 20.6 percent of all votes cast (compared to 0.3 to 2.8 percent in previous presidential elections), was by some interpreted as opposition to the President. In the post-election survey, 74 percent of those turning in a blank ballot said they did not like any of the candidates, while 20 per cent said they opposed the office of the presidency itself (Hardarson & Kristinsson, 2005).


Hardarson, O. & Kristinsson, G. 2005. Iceland. European Journal of Political Research, Volume 44(7-8): 1041-1048.

The Electoral Reform Society, European Democracies website.

Government (Iceland), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Bergen. Retrieved 27 October 2009 from

Statistics Iceland: