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Iceland elects Johannesson as president amid football fever

Voters in Iceland have chosen political newcomer Gudni Johannesson to be their new president. Officials had been concerned about potential low voter-turnout due to Iceland's debut in the Euro 2016 in France.

Independent candidate

Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson

claimed victory in Iceland's presidential election on Saturday, with early results putting him ahead of the eight other challengers.

"All the votes have not been counted, but I think we have won," Johannesson told supporters after just 32 percent of ballots had been tallied.

Early tallies put Johannesson in the lead with 37.7 percent of the vote, while his closest competitor Halla Tomasdottir trailed with 29.9 percent. A record nine candidates were in the running for president.

Prior to his presidential bid, the 47-year-old history professor was most well-known to the public as a prominent political commentator, but has never held public office.

Like most of Iceland's voters, Johannesson is opposed to EU membership. During his campaign, he vowed to modernize political life and give Icelanders more of a voice by granting citizen-initiated referendums.

He vowed to restore voter's faith in the political system after years of anger toward politicians for sinking the country in scandals and financial woes.

Although Iceland's president plays a largely ceremonial role as guarantor of the constitution, the president does influence the formation of government.

Aron Gunnarsson of Iceland takes a selfie photographs with supporters to celebrate his team's 2-1 win after the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match

Polling stations were set up in France for the thousands of Iceland football fans

Polls amidst football frenzy

Around 245,000 Icelanders were eligible to vote in the presidential election, although officials anticipated a low voter-turnout

due to the Euro 2016 football tournament currently taking place in France, where Iceland's national team has qualified for the knock-out stages.

Iceland's Interior Ministry said it set up a polling station in Annecy near the team's camp where many fans are located. They will face off against England on Monday.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 Icelanders are in France to watch the Euro, an astounding number for the island nation of just 334,000 people.

Post-Panama Papers president

Johannesson replaces 73-year-old Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who is stepping down after serving as Iceland's head of state for 20 years.

Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign in April

following the release of the Panama Papers,

which tied him and his wife to offshore accounts.

With Iceland's parliamentary elections looming in October, the Pirate party is the most popular in the country, with 30 percent support and growing. The Independence Party is the second largest with 23 percent.

rs/bk (AFP, dpa)

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