Iceland elects businesswoman Halla Tomasdottir as president

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Icelandic presidential candidate Halla Tomasdottir addresses supporters after exit polls showed she won the presidential race in Reykjavik on June 2, 2024. Icelanders cast their votes on June 1, 2024, in a presidential election in which Tomasdottir defeated former Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir in the poll. | Photo credit: AFP

Halla Tomasdottir, a businesswoman and investor, has won Iceland’s presidential election, topping a crowded field in which the top three were women, the country’s national broadcaster said.

Ms Tomasdottir was elected to the largely ceremonial post with 34.3% of the vote, beating former Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir with 25.2%, and Halla Hrund Logadottir with 15.5%, RUV said on June 2.

Ms Tomasdottir, 55, campaigned as someone who was above party politics and could help open discussions on fundamental issues such as the effect of social media on young people’s mental health, Iceland’s development as a tourist destination and the role of artificial intelligence.

She will be President Gudni Th. Johannesson, who did not stand for re-election after two four-year terms. Ms Tomasdottir will take office on August 1.

Iceland, a Scandinavian island in the North Atlantic Ocean, has a population of about 384,000 and a long tradition of electing women to high positions. Vigdis Finbogadottir was the first democratically elected female president of any country when she became Iceland’s head of state in 1980.

The country has also seen two women as prime ministers in recent years, bringing stability during years of political turmoil. Johanna Sigurdardottir led the government from 2009 to 2013, after the global financial crisis ravaged Iceland’s economy. Ms Jakobsdottir became prime minister in 2017, leading a broad coalition that ended the cycle of crises that had led to three elections in four years. She resigned in April to run for president.

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Ms. Tomasdottir first came to prominence during the financial crisis, when she was hailed as co-founder of Audur Capital, one of the few Icelandic investment firms to survive the turmoil. She is currently on leave as CEO of the B-Team, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting diversity in the workplace and with offices in New York and London.

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