Presidential Power Could Be Restricted - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Presidential Power Could Be Restricted

Published June 6, 2011

Presidential power could be more clearly defined and restricted, should
recommendations from the constitutional committee be made into law.
The role of the president in Iceland has been a matter of speculation and debate for some time now. The report of the Special Investigative Commission, which examined the causes of the economic collapse of 2008, specifically mentioned President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson as making great efforts to paint Icelandic businessmen and bankers in the best possible light when addressing foreign parties. There was also a brief spat between the president and the Icelandic government when he began expressing doubts to foreign media that Iceland should join the European Union – it is the platform of the government to join the EU, and there were concerns that the president was trying to speak on behalf of the nation, as opposed to just expressing a personal opinion.
The president himself believes there is no need for any ethical guidelines for his office, and believes proposing such is an overextension of the Prime Minister’s power.
However, Vísir reports that the constitutional committee is proposing more clearly defined roles for all members of government, including the president, be detailed in the constitution. As it is, the committee believes the wording is vague enough for a president to take on political roles that are rather the responsibilities of government ministers. Furthermore,the committee recommends limiting how long a president can be in power
to three four-year terms. The current president has been in office since 1996, serving four terms thus far.
No mention was made of the president’s power to veto laws and put them
up for public referendum, however, but this power drew a great deal of
focus when the president twice refused to sign Icesave laws passed by
parliament, the second one with the support of 70% of legislators from
both the left and right.

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