REYKJAVIK — Thora Arnorsdottir, a 37-year-old respected journalist with no political background who just had a baby, acknowledged defeat in Iceland's presidential election.
Incumbent Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, a 69-year-old socialist who has held the largely ceremonial post since 1996, won a record fifth straight term in office.
With 48 percent of votes counted, Grimsson was seen garnering 52 percent, while Arnorsdottir, who interrupted her campaign for a week in May to give birth to her third child, was credited with 33 percent.
"This has been a valuable experience. Now I will take a holiday, attend to my new daughter and the other children and go on maternity leave and think how I can put this experience to use," Arnorsdottir told public broadcaster RUV.
"To get more than one-third (of votes), I'm overwhelmed. I of course hoped to win," she said, adding she had no plans to run again in four years: "This is something you only do once in a lifetime."
The fact that she had a newborn as she sought the presidency had raised some eyebrows, even in Iceland.
A pioneer in women's rights, the country is home to the world's first democratically elected woman head of state, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, and current Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is an openly gay woman.
"Women can't be blocked from doing things just because they have a baby," Arnorsdottir said in a pre-election interview.
In her campaign, she had called for a change after Grimsson's 16 years in power.
She had vowed, if elected, to return the presidency to its ceremonial role after Grimsson's unusually political, and at times controversial, approach.
A striking blonde with piercing blue eyes, Arnorsdottir was seen as a fresh face at a time when many Icelanders clamoured for a new breed of politicians to clean out the ranks following the country's devastating economic crash in 2008.
She decided to run after reading an official report on the crash and found that, especially when it came to "ethics and our political system... nothing had really changed."http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g-ThZjDj8gHMQY2tHsjy136cjckQ?docId=CNG.34f0372c420c7e8bff8dcd384ac0b884.271