Parliament appears set to review Article 26 of the constitution, wherein the president’s power to veto laws is contained.
Vísir reports that it was Independence Party chairman Bjarni Benediktsson who began the discussion. This may come as a surprise to some, as Bjarni – despite supporting the Icesave law – also vocally supported the idea of putting Icesave up for referendum. However, as Bjarni himself reminded parliament, his own party was the first to have legislation vetoed by the president, when a bill on media reforms was passed by parliament in 2004. At the time, the party opted to kill the law rather than put it up for referendum.
In his address to parliament today, Bjarni said he felt that Article 26 needed to be reviewed. He also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the ruling coalition, quipping, “The first reaction of the government was in this case, like in so many important matters, unprepared.”
Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon responded by saying the government wasn’t unprepared; just very surprised. He pointed out that the Icesave law had passed with a 70% majority, with support from both ruling parties and members of the opposition, and said he found it unnatural to veto a law with such strong support.
Bjarni agreed, and then used the occasion to point out that when his party had wanted to change Article 26, they were met with a great deal of opposition from the parties now sitting in power.
When all was said in done in the volleys between the two, MPs from every party except for the Progressives supported the idea of reviewing Article 26. It should therefore be up for a review in the near future.
What Article 26 specifically states is: “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.”
A date for the referendum on Icesave will be announced on Friday at the earliest.
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