From Iceland — Constitutional Changes Still Dragging On

Constitutional Changes Still Dragging On

Published January 18, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Silje Bergum Kinsten/

Proposed changes to Iceland’s Constitution are still being worked out, and are lagging behind schedule.

Vísir reports that, despite indications to the contrary, ruling coalition representatives will not have ready their proposal for changes to be made to certain articles of the Icelandic Constitution by tomorrow.

According to sources close to Vísir, one of the more contentious parts of the new Constitution, whenever it may come into being, concerns the right of the people to demand that certain matters be put up for a public referendum.

Representatives from every political party have been working on proposed constitutional provisions that would cover national referendums initiated by a decisive number of petitioned signatures, the transference of power due to international cooperation, natural resources and environmental protections. While the aim had been to submit a draft on these provisions in the beginning of the winter, with a referendum on the matter initiated alongside presidential elections in late June of this year, that aim is becoming increasingly unlikely to be attained.

Committee chairperson Páll Þórhallsson told reporters last November that while the timeframe to submit a proposal to parliament has shrunk more than expected, he remains optimistic.

“Now my top priority as chairperson is to encourage the committee to complete its task and submit a proposal,” he said at the time. “Then party leaders will take over, and assess the situation.”

The prospect of a new constitution received widespread public support and made international headlines in the wake of the 2009 protests, with the formation of a National Assembly that year tasked with receiving direct suggestions from the people on what kind of changes the country wanted to see.

This, in turn, led to the elections of a Constitutional Assembly in 2010. While these elections were ruled invalid by the Supreme Court in 2011 on the grounds of numerous election irregularities, the 25 people elected to the assembly were later appointed by then-Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

While this would lead to the Constitutional Committee submitting a draft for a new constitution that summer, and a national referendum on the matter in 2012 voted in favour of these changes, the matter has still not been resolved.


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