Icelandic President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson ignited a global debate this week by suggesting that he would ban pineapples as a topping on pizza if he could.
Johannesson made the comments during a visit last week to a high school in Akureyri, a town in northern Iceland. The president was quizzed by students about his preferences in life — he told them that he supported the English soccer team Manchester United, for example.
However, things took a turn when Johannesson was asked whether he liked pineapple on his pizza. According to reports in the Icelandic media, the president said he was “firmly opposed” to the idea. He then went further, suggesting that he would ban pineapples on pizza if he could.
Before long, his opinions had caught the attention of social media, sparking a rolling debate about the merits of government intervention into pizza decision-making.
On Change.org, a petition calling for the president's resignation over his “extreme views” had garnered 82 signatures as of 6 p.m. Eastern time — not much, but bear in mind that Iceland's total population is only about 335,000.
On Tuesday, Johannesson addressed the furor with a statement acknowledging that in his position, a traditionally ceremonial role, he had no authority to change Iceland's laws about pizza:
I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don't like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.
Johannesson, a former history professor at the University of Iceland, has been in office since August. He pledged to be a “less political president” than his predecessor, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, and he has proven exceptionally popular — his approval ratings reached 97 percent in December.
This may be down to his approachable style: Last summer, he was spotted picking up a Domino's pizza on his way home from work.
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