The Constitutional Council

According to the parliamentary resolution no. 1120, a special Constitutional Council shall be a gathering that has the purpose of reviewing the Constitution of the Icelandic Republic, no. 33, 17 June 1944. The Council is comprised of 25 delegates who were appointed by Althingi and they shall deliver the Council’s propositions to Althingi by the end of June but may ask for an extension of one month. The first meeting of the Council was 6 April 2011.

The National Gathering

A National Gathering of approximately one thousand people was held on 6 November 2010. Those thousand people were selected by means of random sampling from the Icelandic National Register. The National Gathering called for the people’s principal viewpoints and points of emphasis concerning the constitution. The information collected at the National Gathering was processed by a special Constitutional Committee and will be delivered to the Constitutional Council when it convenes.

The Constitutional Committee

The Constitutional Committee of seven members was working from August 2010 to April 2011. The committee had the role of preparing and organizing the National Gathering in constitutional matters. The committee’s responsibility was also to collect and process available material and information relating to constitutional matters, which might be useful to the Constitutional Council, and furthermore to present ideas on amendments to the Constitution when the Council convened.

More information

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir submitted a bill to the parliament about an advisory Constitutional Assembly, on 4 November 2009, which would have the task to review the Constitution. In a report accompanying the bill the reasons for this were stated. The main reason was that following the collapse of the banks and the nation economic meltdown demands had risen about the need to review the basis of the system governance and consequently the Constitution of the Republic.

The bill took some changes before it became an Act on 16 June 2010. According to the Act, a special advisory Constitutional Assembly should be a gathering for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution. The Assembly was to be composed of a 25 to 31 delegates and last for 2-4 months. The Act also stated that a National Forum in constitutional matters of approximately one thousand people should be held in good time before the elections to the Constitutional Assembly. Those thousand people should be selected by means of random sampling from the National Population Register. The Forum should call for the principal viewpoints and points of emphasis of the public concerning the organisation of the country’s government and its constitution.

On the passing of this Act, the Althingi also appointed a Constitutional Committee of seven members which should have the role of preparing and organizing the mentioned National Forum on constitutional matters. The committee should also undertake the collection of available material and information relating to constitutional matters which could be useful to the Constitutional Assembly and furthermore present ideas on amendments to the Constitution when the Assembly convened. The Constitutional Committee will soon deliver a report about this.

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, said in her speech on the Independence day 17 June 2010 that she believed that the Act of the Constitutional Assembly was one of the most important issues that had been passed on by the Parliament.

The National Forum was held in 6 November 2010 and was a great success. Around 950 people participated in the event, and some 200 worked behind the scenes to ensure a smooth execution. The format and the discussion process of the National Forum was partly based on the experience which was acquired during a similar gathering 2009. At the end of the Forum, participants were asked about their views of its organization and impact. A total of 93% felt that the results would be of use to the constitutional assembly . Ninety-seven percent were satisfied with the Forum organization, 95% felt that the forum was a success, and 75% felt that the actual execution of the forum was exemplary.

A surprising number of candidates handed in their intention to campaign for a seat on the Assembly or 522. The elections to the Constitutional Assembly took take place on 27 November 2010 and 25 delegates were elected and the Assembly was to commence 15 February 2011.

Three complaints were received by the Icelandic Supreme Court about the elections to the Constitutional Assembly. Oral proceedings on the complaints were made in the Supreme Court on 12 January 2011 and on 25 January 2011 the Supreme Court determined to invalidate the elections. The Court ruled that a series of problems made the vote problematic, such as using nontraditional ballot boxes and that the ballot paper were marked with series of numbers that could make them traceable.

After the decision a special parliamentary committee was appointed to suggest a solution concerning the Constitutional Assembly. The majority of the Committee proposed that a advisory Constitutional Council should be appointed by Althingi to review the constitution and the members of council should be the same that were elected in the elections of the Constitutional Assembly . Althingi approved a parliamentary resolution based on the proposition on 24 Mars 2011.

The first meeting of The Constitutional Council was 6 April 2011. The council is comprised of 25 delegates. They shall deliver the Council’s propositions to Althingi by the end of June but may ask for an extension of one month.