From Iceland — Prime Minister Offers Concessions Over Iceland's Constitution

Prime Minister Offers Concessions Over Iceland’s Constitution

Published October 8, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir intends to submit a bill this November which would make two changes to Iceland’s constitution, Fréttablaðið reports. These changes are as yet not very clearly defined, and do not represent everything the Icelandic people voted in favour of in 2010, even as the number of Icelanders who want a new constitution continues to climb.

Interestingly, Katrín wants to submit the bill to Parliament as an MP; not the Prime Minister. The bill in question would make two changes to the constitution: to provide a clearer definition of what counts as a “natural resource”, as well as to a new framework for the protection and use of these natural resources. While she did not list specifics, she did say that the interests of landowners would be taken into consideration, and could include limitations on human access to protected areas. She expects that this bill could be passed before the next parliamentary elections, which are due to be held in autumn 2021.

These changes are a far cry from what Icelanders voted for in a national referendum held in 2012.

In that referendum, 66.3% of voters in the referendum said that they wanted a new constitution based on the draft that was drawn up by the Constitutional Council in 2011. That draft included such changes as having natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property; giving equal weight to votes cast in all parts of the country; a provision stating that a certain proportion of the electorate is able to demand that issues are put to a referendum; and more.

Despite the fact that this draft was submitted to Parliament in July 2011, and many of its provisions were approved of by the people in a democratic national referendum, the draft has yet to see the floor of Parliament.

Interest in the new constitution has not waned, as poll after poll has shown that the largest proportion of Icelanders still want a new constitution. At the time of this writing, a petition calling for the provisions which the people voted for in 2012 to be ratified has reached over 27,000 signatures.

Iceland’s original constitution is more or less borrowed from the Danes. In the wake of the 2008 economic collapse, a public outcry to change the very structure of Iceland’s socio-political system led to an initiative to write a new constitution. Whether the Prime Minister’s concessions will be enough to satisfy the call for a new constitution has yet to be seen.

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