Presidential elections: is Iceland heading for a farce?
At least twelve candidates with just one round of voting - is this a recipe for disaster? Photo: Eggert Jóhannesson
If things remain as they are, the next President of Iceland could theoretically be voted in with just 8.5% of the electorate behind them.
With just fourteen weeks to go until the 2016 presidential elections, a total of twelve candidates have already officially entered the race – and there are still two months to go before the deadline for candidates closes.
Iceland is the only republic in the world with a system for electing presidents which does not require the winning candidate to secure over 50% of overall votes – i.e. there is only one round and whoever gets the most votes becomes President of Iceland.
Should all twelve candidates remain in the race and enjoy similar popularity, the score required to secure Iceland’s top job could be lower than 9%.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is one of Iceland's most popular presidents. However, in 1980 when she took office, most voters didn't want her. Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson
Since Icelandic independence, the highest number of official candidates has been four – in 1980 and 1996. In 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir – the world’s first directly elected female Head of State – won with 33.8% of the vote, and in 1996 current President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson secured 41.4%.
As well as the current twelve official candidates, at least four more have declared that they are “considering” standing for President.
A question mark hangs over whether a president with just 8.4% of the electorate supporting them could claim to have democratic legitimacy as Iceland’s Head of State.
In other republics, it is the norm for the two candidates scoring highest in the first round to fight it out head-to-head in a second round and secure an absolute majority. Photo: YouTube screenshot
Iceland’s Bright Future party proposed an absolute-majority system back in October last year, in which a second ballot would be held between the two highest-scoring candidates, such that the eventual winner would have over 50% of votes cast. The proposal has not become law.
A gallery of the current twelve candidates can be seen below. Among the more amusing names doing the rounds in connection with the presidential elections is Humar Linduson Eldjárn – a lobster soft toy who sadly does not meet all the eligibility requirements for the post…