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Johannesson set to win Iceland's presidential election

Gudni Johannesson looks set to win Iceland's presidential election. With a large section of the population in France to watch Euro 2016, the election could be the perfect antidote to the angst of April.

The 47-year-old assistant history professor has a commanding lead among the nine candidates, garnering about 50 percent of support in opinion polls since announcing his candidacy in May, while his nearest rival has 16 percent.

"I am just an ordinary guy," he told the "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper. "I am a historian, an academic, a person who I hope people see like 'he's a likeable guy, I could chat with this guy over a beer or I could go camping with him and his family and it would be fun.' "

Johannesson says there was a "total loss of trust" in public and political institutions after the

2008 financial crash, which severely hit the country

. If elected, Johannesson would replace 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.

The revelations led to the biggest public protest in Iceland's history. The political newcomer says he wants to restore Icelanders' faith in their political system after years of public anger toward politicians.

Although aspiring for a largely ceremonial position, Johannesson has never disclosed his political leanings, although he is broadly moderate and centrist. He presents himself as "objective and optimistic."

"It has been fun, demanding and interesting - just as a campaign should be. I was pleasantly surprised (by) how much I enjoy meeting people, talking with them and listening to them," he told the news agency AFP.

"Polls show that he is very well ahead, so he has everything to lose and needs to focus on avoiding saying controversial things," Gretar Eythorsson, a political science professor at the University of Akureyri told AFP.

Johannesson's political program has focused primarily on modernizing politics.

With parliamentary elections looming in October, the Icelandic 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.

Watch video 00:36

Icelandic PM Gunnlaugsson offers to resign

jbh/bk (AFP)

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