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Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

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Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Guðni in 2022
6th President of Iceland
Assumed office
1 August 2016
Prime MinisterSigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Bjarni Benediktsson
Katrín Jakobsdóttir
Bjarni Benediktsson
Preceded byÓlafur Ragnar Grímsson
Succeeded byHalla Tómasdóttir (elect)
Personal details
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson

(1968-06-26) 26 June 1968 (age 56)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Political partyIndependent
Elín Haraldsdóttir
(m. 1995; div. 1996)

(m. 2004)
Alma materUniversity of Warwick (BA)
University of Iceland (MA)
St Antony's College, Oxford (MSt)
Queen Mary, University of London (PhD)

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈkvʏðnɪ ˈtʰɔrlaˌsiʏs ˈjouːhanɛsɔn]; born 26 June 1968)[1] is an Icelandic historian and politician who has served as the sixth president of Iceland since 2016. He was elected to the presidency in 2016 with 39% of the vote and was reelected in 2020 with 92.2% of the vote.[2] On 1 January 2024, Guðni announced in his New Year's address to the Icelandic people that he would not stand for election again in 2024.[3]

A historian, Guðni was a professor at the University of Iceland before running for president in 2016. His field of research is modern Icelandic history, and he has published works on the Cod Wars, the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis and the Icelandic presidency, among other topics.

Early life and education


Guðni is the son of teacher and journalist Margrét Thorlacius and sports instructor Jóhannes Sæmundsson.[4] His brother Patrekur Jóhannesson is a former Icelandic handball national team player.[4] Guðni played handball in his youth, in both Iceland and the UK.[4][5]

Guðni graduated from Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík (MR), a junior college in central Reykjavík, in 1987. While at MR, he competed in Gettu betur, an Icelandic team quiz show for junior college students.[6] He earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from the University of Warwick in England in 1991 and a Master of Arts in history from the University of Iceland in 1997. He has also studied German and Russian at university level.[4] In 1999, he completed an MSt degree in history at St Antony's College at the University of Oxford.[1] In 2003, he received a PhD in history from Queen Mary, University of London.[7]

In 2024, he was granted an honorary doctorate at the University of Oulu.



Guðni has worked as a lecturer at the University of Iceland, Bifröst University and University of London.[1] At the time of his presidential candidacy he worked as a senior lecturer in history at the University of Iceland. His field of research is modern Icelandic history, in which he has published a number of works, including on the Cod Wars, the 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and the Icelandic presidency. He has written a biography of Gunnar Thoroddsen and a book about Kristján Eldjárn's presidency.[1] Between 1992 and 1997, he translated four works by Stephen King into Icelandic.[8] From 2011 to 2015, Guðni was president of Sögufélag, the Icelandic historical society.[9]

Presidential candidacy

Guðni at an event at Árbæjarsafnið in 2021.

Guðni decided to stand for president on 5 May 2016. Before his candidacy, he had appeared frequently on live television to provide commentary and historical context in the wake of the publication of the Panama Papers, which created a scandal for Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and ultimately led to his ouster.[10] A scholar of the Icelandic presidency, Guðni delineated on live television the options available to incumbent president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and other Icelandic political actors.[10] After his television appearances, there were calls for Guðni to run for the presidency himself.[10]

His platform included support for a citizen initiative referendum provision in the Constitution.[11] Early polls showed significant support,[12] and following incumbent president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson's decision to drop out of the race Guðni saw an increase in popularity reflected in various polls, which ranked him first with 67% to 69%, far ahead of other contenders.[13] Guðni was elected on 25 June after receiving a plurality of 39.1% of the vote.[14]

Guðni was unaffiliated with any of Iceland's political parties.[15] He said he would be a "less political president" than his predecessor due to a lack of partisanship.[15] Guðni has emphasized the importance of unity for the small nation.[15]

President of Iceland

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson meeting with First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, at Bute House in Edinburgh, 2024

Guðni took office as President of Iceland on 1 August 2016[16] after winning the most votes in that year's election, 71,356 (39.1%). At 48, he was Iceland's youngest president.[15] Roughly one month into his term, Guðni had approval ratings of 68.6% in an MMR survey, the highest approval rating this pollster has measured for an Icelandic president since its establishment in 2011.[17][18] Early in his term, Guðni had to oversee negotiations to form a government in Iceland in the wake of the 2016 Icelandic parliamentary election on 29 October.[19] These negotiations were difficult, as no pre-election coalition had a majority, and all possible majority coalitions had parties with highly divergent policy positions.[19][20][21][22][23] In December 2016, Guðni had approval ratings of 97%.[24] Such high approval ratings for Icelandic politicians are without precedent.[25] In April 2019, his approval rating was 93.5% among those who took a position in a survey.[10]

Guðni attracted international attention in February 2017 when he jokingly vowed to ban pineapple as a pizza topping.[26]

Personal life


Religious beliefs


Guðni stands outside organized religion, but was raised in the Catholic faith. He left the Catholic Church due to its delayed and muted response to reports of criminal abuses by priests.[1][27][28] His credo is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights. Humans are endowed with reason and conscience and should act in the spirit of brotherhood towards each other."[1][27][28]



Guðni is the son of the teacher and journalist Margrét Thorlacius and the physical education teacher and coach Jóhannes Sæmundsson. His father died of cancer at age 42. He has two brothers, Patrekur (a former Icelandic men's national handball team player, who is coach of the Austria men's national handball team and father of rapper JóiPé)[29] and Jóhannes, who is a systems analyst.[1]

Guðni married Canadian Eliza Jean Reid in 2004 and they have four children.[30] The couple, who met while studying in the United Kingdom, moved to Iceland in 2003.[30] Reid became First Lady of Iceland when her husband was sworn into office.[30] Guðni also has a daughter from a previous marriage.[citation needed]



Guðni has authored numerous books on historical topics. On 1 September 2022, he presented a book about the Icelandic Cod Wars with the United Kingdom, Stund milli stríða. Saga landhelgismálsins, 1961–1971 (A Lull in the Cod Wars. Iceland and its Territorial Waters 1961–1971) on the 50th anniversary of the 1972 skirmish.[31]

A selection of other important books published by Guðni:

  • Gunnar Thoroddsen – Ævisaga, (a biography of a former prime minister of Iceland, Gunnar Thoroddsen), 2010, Bókabúð Forlagið.
  • Hrunið: Ísland á barmi gjaldþrots og upplausnar, The Collapse: Iceland on the Verge of Bankruptcy and Dissolution, (a book about the financial crisis 2008), 2009, Bókabúð Forlagið.
  • Óvinir Ríksins, Enemies of the State, (a book about secret observation of supposed threats to inner security after Iceland joined NATO in 1949 and the U.S. established an air base near Keflavík in 1951), 2006, Bókabúð Forlagið. The book was nominated for the Icelandic Book Prize 2006.



National Honours


Foreign Honours




Guðni is distantly related to former US president Barack Obama: they are 24th cousins 8 times removed.[37] The connection is through Obama's Scottish ancestry,[37] but since almost all Icelanders can trace themselves to bishop Gottskálk grimmi Nikulásson they are all distantly related to Obama.[citation needed] Guðni also shares ancestry with former US president Donald Trump through their descent from Haakon V of Norway.[38]


  • Kári í jötunmóð. Saga Íslenskrar erfðagreiningar og Kára Stefánssonar (Reykjavík: Nýja bókafélagið, 1999).
  • Völundarhús valdsins. Stjórnarmyndanir, stjórnarslit og staða forseta Íslands í embættistíð Kristjáns Eldjárns, 1968–1980 (Reykjavík: Mál og menning, 2005).
  • Óvinir ríkisins. Ógnir og innra öryggi í kalda stríðinu á Íslandi (Reykjavík: Mál og menning, 2006).
  • Þorskastríðin þrjú. Saga landhelgismálsins 1948–1976 (Reykjavík: Hafréttarstofnun Íslands, 2006).
  • Hrunið. Ísland á barmi gjaldþrots og upplausnar (Reykjavík: JPV, 2009)
  • Gunnar Thoroddsen. Ævisaga. (Reykjavík: JPV, 2010)
  • Fyrstu forsetarnir. (Reykjavík: Sögufélag, 2016)

Guðni has translated four Stephen King books into Icelandic.[39]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Guðmundsson, Hjörtur J. (3 May 2016). "Hver er þessi Guðni Th.?". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Næst stærsti kosningasigur frá upphafi". RÚV. 28 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Guðni býður sig ekki fram á ný - RÚV.is". January 2024.
  4. ^ a b c d "Breaking: Iceland elects new President". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Lamdi bróður sinn og nennir ekki að djamma: Öll litlu atriðin sem þú þarft að vita um Guðna en skipta kannski mestu máli - DV" (in Icelandic). 26 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Hver er Guðni Th?". Stundin. 2 August 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Guðni Th. Jóhannesson Ferilskrá" (PDF). Ugla (University of Iceland) (in Icelandic). Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF; 166 KB). University of Iceland. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  9. ^ ""Forsetar Sögufélags"". Archived from the original on 21 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d "Forsetinn sem varð til í beinni útsendingu á RÚV og þjóðin elskar". Kjarninn (in Icelandic). 18 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Guðni lýsir yfir framboði". RÚV (in Icelandic). 5 May 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Ólafur með 45% en Guðni 38%". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 5 May 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  13. ^ Fontaine, Paul (11 May 2016). "Guðni Surges Ahead In New Presidential Election Poll". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Lokatölur komnar úr öllum kjördæmum". 26 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d Milne, Richard; Correspondent, Nordic (26 June 2016). "Iceland elects university historian as president". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Political Novice Elected Iceland President Amid Football Fever". NDTV.com. Agence France-Presse. 26 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  17. ^ MMR. "Ánægja með störf forseta ekki mælst hærri". Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Aldrei mælst meiri ánægja með störf forseta | Kjarninn" (in Icelandic). 5 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Iceland's Pirate party invited to form government". The Guardian. Agence France-Presse. 2 December 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Vísir - Skattamálin áhyggjuefni í viðræðunum". visir.is. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Katrín búin að hitta Guðna". RÚV. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Vísir - Undirliggjandi vantraust og óvissa skapar erfiðleika við myndun ríkisstjórnar". visir.is. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Negotiations on historic five party coalition, led by Left-greens, go well according to Pirate Party leader". Icelandmag. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  24. ^ "97 prósent ánægð með Guðna". RÚV. 18 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  25. ^ "Vísir - Vinsældir forseta í tölu sem sést eiginlega aldrei segir prófessor". visir.is. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Profile in Courage: Iceland's President Denounces Pineapple As a Pizza Topping". Foreign Policy. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  27. ^ a b Jóhannesson, Guðni Th. "Guðni Th. Jóhannesson". Archived from the original on 29 May 2016.
  28. ^ a b Hringbraut. "Guðni Th sagði sig úr kaþólsku kirkjunni". Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  29. ^ "Litli frændi forsetans kveikir í internetinu". Vísir.is. 9 July 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  30. ^ a b c "Meet Iceland's new first lady: Canadian Eliza Reid". Maclean's (The Canadian Press). 26 June 2016.
  31. ^ "Forsetinn sendir frá sér bók á afmælisdegi 50 mílnanna". 1 September 2022.
  32. ^ Senest tildelte ordener Archived 17 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine. The Danish Monarchy. Retrieved 6 May 2018
  33. ^ Islannin presidentti Jóhannesson presidentti Niinistön vieraana: Yhteisiä tavoitteita Arktisessa neuvostossa Archived 23 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 22 February 2018
  34. ^ "Foto un video arhīvs | Latvijas Valsts prezidenta mājaslapa". Archived from the original on 15 May 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  35. ^ Royal Court
  36. ^ Statsbesök från Island – dag 1 Archived 26 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine. Swedish royal family. Retrieved 26 January 2018
  37. ^ a b "Geta tengt sig við Bandaríkjaforseta". Morgunblaðið. 29 November 2016. p. 10 – via Tímarit.is.
  38. ^ "Donald Trump is related to most Icelanders and Danish and Royalty"[permanent dead link], Morgunblaðið, Tue 24 Jan 2017
  39. ^ "Iceland historian Johannesson tipped to be voted president". BBC News. 25 June 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
Political offices
Preceded by President of Iceland