Some of you may have noticed that I skated pretty nimbly over the issue of the constitutional reform the other day. If I do say so myself.
Of course the matter of reviewing the Icelandic constitution is a highly significant one, and I happen to think that the way we’re going about it here is pretty cool. By which I mean that anyone can be elected to the constitutional assembly — it’s not just being reviewed by a bunch of bureaucrats in gray suits.
As for why Iceland needs a new constitution at all — well that is because it’s never really had one. The constitution we’ve had since the founding of the republic was practically translated verbatim from the Danish constitution, save that “president” was substituted for “king”.
There were some concerns for a while that not many people would run for the assembly, but all that changed in the 11th hour [typical for Icelanders to do everything at the last minute]. In the end there were 525 valid candidacies, although since then, two have dropped out. So now we have 523 people running for the assembly, and as I mentioned in the previous post, one of the main concerns is how to adequately present all those candidates to ensure a fair election.
Sadly, the gender ratio is a bit off: 30 percent women to 70 percent male. The ladies’ own fault, obviously, for not turning out in greater numbers.
From a press release issued by the institution organizing the constitutional assembly:
Iceland is now in the process of reforming its Constitution. The method used in the process is unique and not known to have been used before when a country is reforming its Constitution. What is historic is that a special consultative Constitutional Assembly will be established next year. The Assembly will review the constitution and present a complete constitutional bill to the Althingi for process.
The elections to the Constitutional Assembly will take place on 27 November 2010. The deadline for the Candidacies for election to the Constitutional Assembly was 18 October 2010. A surprising number of candidates handed in their intention to campaign for a seat on the Assembly, or 525 persons which is 0.2 per cent of all eligible persons in the country. The Assembly will be composed of a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 31 delegates and they will be elected by direct personal election.
Another unique method in the reforming process is that the Act on the Constitutional Assembly stated that a National Gathering of approximately one thousand people should be held before the elections to the Constitutional Assembly. Those thousand people should be selected by means of random sampling from the National Population Register. The National Gathering shall endeavour to call for the principal viewpoints and points of emphasis of the public concerning the organisation of the country’s government and its constitution; A Special Constitutional Committee shall process the information collected at the National Gathering and deliver to the Constitutional Assembly when it convenes. The thousand participants are already registered. The oldest participant of the meeting is 89 years old and the youngest 18. The format and the discussion process of the National Gathering is partly based on the experience which was acquired during a similar gathering last year. The National Gathering will be a one day event on Saturday 6 November 2010 in Laugardalshöll (sporting arena) in Reykjavik.
Incidentally, the national gathering is modelled on the national assembly held last year. And, like last year, I’ll be there helping out, possibly by doing some live reporting, possibly by organizing stuff for the foreign media that shows up [if any]. The national gathering won’t have any direct impact on the constitutional review process, except that its findings are designed to be used as guidelines for those elected to the constitutional assembly, so in that sense it’s the “voice of the people” in the democratic process.