Farmers, students, salesmen, chefs, stay-at-home-Dads, film directors, engineers, preschool teachers, architects, lawyers, painters, mechanics, security guards, museum directors, businessmen, veterinarians, psychiatrists, hotel managers, retirees, doctors, journalists, driving school instructors, the unemployed and priests – they’re all running to be part of a Constitutional Assembly, which will convene this February to review Iceland’s constitution for the first time in history.
Although a constitutional review of this sort has always been option, the banking crisis and dissatisfaction in the nation provided the necessary momentum to roll this into action. “After the financial meltdown, there was a strong demand from society for greater participation from the people and the current government is meeting those demands,” Ministry of Finance press officer Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir tells us.
Lo and behold, 523 people collected the necessary 30-50 unique sponsor signatures required to make it onto the ballot. So, on November 27, Icelanders will head to the polls to cast their votes from this enormous list of candidates. But how will they ever make heads or tails of their choices? Will they read up on all 523 candidates? Will they know what kind of agenda the candidates have? Will they go through the list and spot familiar names? Will they simply not show up to vote?
Needless to say, it won’t be an easy task! For the first time ever, people are permitted to bring their notes and whatnot into the voting booth. And it’s a good thing because to further complicate things for the voter, but to make things easier for the counter, they are supposed to cast their votes by four digit candidate ID numbers: 4217, 7154, 9915, 8287, 4624, 3205, and 2578 (randomly selected). Then, the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method will be used to count them. We won’t even go there.
Nonetheless, Rósa says this is a major step toward greater direct democracy. Nobody really knows how it will turn out. “It’s a highly interesting experiment in democracy being followed by political scientists around the world.”
Meet Some Candidates
We didn’t have time to speak to all 523 of the candidates, but we randomly polled a few of them:
Eiríkur Hans Sigurðsson, Driving school instructor
He wants to ensure Iceland’s natural resources are in the hands of the people, and he wants to have more clearly defined boundaries between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Katrín Fjeldsted, Doctor
She believes it is important to go in with an open mind, and says she is interested in boosting Iceland’s democracy with safeguards for greater participation and consensus from society.
Ægir Geirdal Gíslason, 64-year-old unemployed security guard
He says it is important for the unemployed to have a voice. He would like to change the Constitution so that Alþingi stops commissioning all of these expensive committees to investigate things for them. Instead, he would like them to take on more responsibility and simply rely on expert advice.