Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced at a press conference from his residence today that he will veto the recently passed Icesave bill. The bill will be put up for national referendum instead.
This marks only the second time in Icelandic history that the president has vetoed a bill, the previous occasion being in 2004 with regards to a controversial media bill.
The president cited two separate opinion polls showing that 70% of the nation is against the passage of Icesave, and Article 26 of the constitution, which states, “If Althingi has passed a bill, it shall be submitted to the President of the Republic for confirmation not later than two weeks after it has been passed. Such confirmation gives it the force of law. If the President rejects a bill, it shall nevertheless become valid but shall, as soon as circumstances permit, be submitted to a vote by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote, for approval or rejection. The law shall become void if rejected, but otherwise retains its force.”
In his statement, he said that while he believes a strong economy and good relations with other countries are important, also important was that the nation is satisfied with the laws of the land. “Now the power and the responsibility is in the hands of the people,” he added.
Over the past weekend, the president met with representatives from InDefence, organizers of the online petition calling for the bill’s veto, which had garnered some 50,000 signatures. He also met with Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Finance Minister Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson, and Business Minister Gylfi Magnússon.
The veto has had some speculating that the current Social Democrat/Leftist-Green coalition could split over this, as Leftist-Green MP Björn Valur Gíslason told Bloomberg. However, Lefist-Green MP Ögmundur Jónasson – who himself voted against the Icesave bill – has rejected the possibility of this happening.
A reaction from government ministers is still pending.