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So What’s This New Constitution I Keep Hearing About?

So What’s This New Constitution I Keep Hearing About?

Published June 6, 2012

After the 2008 financial crash there were loud calls for a new Republic of Iceland, where fat cats would have no more power than the public. The logical starting point was a new constitution. In 2010, an election was held to elect a Constitutional Assembly. Five hundred some people ran for 25 seats. The election was, however, nullified by The Supreme Court.
Why? Election fraud?

The Court considered the voting arrangement lax in ensuring voter privacy while voting, though there are no reported cases of votes being looked at by people who were not supposed to. Instead of rerunning the election, parliament decided to appoint the 25 people elected to a Constitutional Council. One person declined, leaving 24 people to start writing a new constitution for the Republic of Iceland.
Twenty-four people? I read on the web that it was crowdsourced online!
No, not really. The Council people blogged about their deliberations and took suggestions from the public, but the proposed constitution was written by 24. I think you have got it confused with the one that starts: “We the People are no strangers to love, you know the rules and so do I, a full commitment’s what I’m thinking of, you wouldn’t get this from any other guy.”
Don’t rickroll me, that joke’s a 1000 internet years old. And not funny to begin with.

I apologise. To be fair, the whole process has been very open and transparent. The Council has been very careful about making its reasoning clear and explained how it came to their conclusion and put everything online. The regular media has largely ignored all this information, choosing instead to focus on arguments between politicians about whether a new constitution is a good idea or not to begin with. Few Icelanders would be able to tell you how the proposed constitution begins, which is: “We who live in Iceland want to create a just society where everyone sits at the same table.”
That would be one hell of a big table.
It is a metaphorical table. I think. If the Council really meant that all Icelanders should sit around an actual table together, that would be by far the most radical change in the proposed constitution. Mostly it encodes the current practices of the Icelandic executive, legislature and judicial system into a constitution.
It isn’t a revolutionary document that takes power away from the fat cats and gives it to the public?

The most radical change proposed is that if ten percent of the Icelandic voting public signs a petition, they can propose a law that the parliament has to vote on, or they can have most laws passed by the Icelandic parliament go to a national referendum. Optimists say that the public is the wisest legislator, pessimists point out that in referendum-happy Switzerland, women did not have full voting rights in every part of the country until 1990, and sarcastic bastards expect all this to be great fun. It looks like the Constitutional Council takes the side of the optimists. In any case, the public at large will be able to vote for or against the proposed constitution in a national referendum this fall.
This Constitutional Council, was it a gathering of the best and brightest, the Icelandic James Madisons, Thomas Jeffersons and Benjamin Franklins?
Well, the people elected were almost all known from television, radio and newspapers for commenting on social and political affairs. This included Iceland’s best-known economist, a former TV news reporter in his ’70s and a right-wing radio host.
So it was written by the Icelandic Paul Krugman, Dan Rather and Rush Limbaugh?

I would not go quite so far. Others would, though. All things considered, it is a fairly diverse crowd. Among the council people there was a disability rights activist, Björk’s dad, and a mathematician of Polish descent.
Is this is a setup for a bad joke?

Oh, no, but I do know one joke about the constitution. Have you heard the one about the Icelanders who tried to write a new constitution? The dysfunctional system of Icelandic governance kept delaying the process for years and the dysfunctional Icelandic media did not bother to inform the public about the contents of the new constitution.



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The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

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Aðfangadagur (Ath-founga-dager) December 24, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25 in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last-minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, marked by state radio broadcasting the traditional “ringing of the church bells.” This is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday

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WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

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Anyone who’s followed American politics, or switched to Fox News over the holidays, knows that a full blown war is raging at this very moment: The War On Christmas. On the battlefield, the godless forces of Politically Correct liberals—who want to take Christ out of Christmas and thus destroy the very fabric of American culture—fight the patriotic and pious people over at Fox. Of course nobody residing the reality-based community has ever encountered this “War on Christmas.” It exists only in the fevered imagination of loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, who use it to fill airtime, drum up

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Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

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When they stop stacking the Rjómi (heavy cream) neatly on the supermarket shelves, you know Christmas is just around the corner. The Rjómi hasn’t disappeared though. Entering the walk-in cooler (don’t forget your jacket!) you’ll see a huge container spilling over with cartons and cartons of Rjómi. Frankly, stacking it is a waste of time; soon you’ll notice the mountain getting smaller as every single person takes at least one, maybe two or maybe five. Our consumer needs are this predictable before, during and after Christmas, because almost every single Icelandic household has the exact same family traditions. This uniformity

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The Sinister Christmas Clan Of Iceland

The Sinister Christmas Clan Of Iceland

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In Iceland, there is no Santa Claus. Instead, there are thirteen “jólasveinar,” which can be translated to “Yule Lads.” They live in mountains and hike to town, one by one, for the thirteen days leading up to Christmas Eve. Their mother is Grýla, a troll known for eating babies and beating up her husband. In previous centuries, the Yule Lads were a bunch of scraggly, merry—sometimes thieving—pranksters that would get up to all sorts of shenanigans on their visits to civilization. In recent decades, the lads have mostly abandoned their mischievous ways—today’s youth mostly knows them as a group of

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Preparing for Global Leadership

Preparing for Global Leadership

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In 2012, Þóra Arnórsdóttir, a respected journalist for Icelandic State TV, RÚV, launched a formidable campaign for the presidency of Iceland, challenging the four-term incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Although many recession-weary Icelanders were eager to see a change of executive power at the time, Þóra’s entrance into presidential politics drew surprisingly intense public scrutiny for an unusual reason: she was eight months pregnant with her third child when she formally entered the race. Her bold decision to campaign while pregnant generated a slew of laudatory and skeptical headlines in Iceland and across the globe, for many media outlets questioned the

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Government To Charge For Iceland’s Nature

Government To Charge For Iceland’s Nature

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With the annual turnover of overseas visitors set to break the one million mark for the first time this year, Icelandic politicians, companies and citizens have long been considering how best to cope with growing pains connected to the country’s tourism explosion. The problem is simple: despite bringing their plentiful currency, thus giving the national economy a much-needed shot in the arm, the sheer number of holidaymakers necessitates improvements to Iceland’s infrastructure. Some tourism hot-spots need basic facilities such as toilets, lest people start free-range pooping en masse; many sites of outstanding natural beauty are lacking signage and pathways to prevent soil

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