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The Icelandic nation votes on Icesave

So, old deCode Genetics, best known for mapping the Icelandic genome and also for the best PR stunt in Icelandic history,* has joined forces with Eyjan and designed a special online voting system allowing the Icelandic public to vote on whether or not they want parliament to accept the sovereign guarantee on Icesave. [Yes yes, Icesave is still being pushed and shoved around the endless labyrinth that is the Icelandic parliamentary process and every Icelander I know is ready to vomit at the mention of it].

deCode recently went bankrupt [and I mean really really this time – they’d been teetering on the edge of the bankruptcy abyss for years] and was bought by an American concern. Clearly this marks some kind of departure for the company since reportedly they now wish to continue to design these kinds of referendum mechanisms to facilitate direct democracy. Data is encrypted to ensure that no one can be identified and no one can vote twice. Every Icelander gets sent a login code to their online bank account [clearly this presumes that every single Icelander banks online] and can then proceed with the voting.

It will be interesting to see what emerges from the Icesave vote, which ends on Thursday. A recent opinion poll showed that around 70% of the Icelandic public** wants the president to veto the law if the bill for the sovereign guarantee is passed in parliament, which will most likely not happen until the very end of this month [parliamentarians are being forced to work between Christmas and New Year’s this year – no leisurely three-week holiday this time around like last year when the Independence Party ruled], at the earliest. Several years ago he vetoed a highly unpopular media bill [involving two of the disgraced moguls], on the grounds it had created a wide chasm between the government and the people. This time around the chasm is even wider – and the stakes for the president are considerably higher. In other words, he’s in a serious pickle. Stay tuned.

ANOTHER AMAZINGLY MILD DAY
With temps around 10°C like yesterday. There was hardly any wind, so the smog in the city was palpable and I’m willing to bet my Icesave vote that it was above acceptable safety levels [which, alas, happens not infrequently around here]. It is 7°C [41F], the sun rose at 11.13 and set at 3.29.

* In the form of Íslendingabók, which you can read about here [scroll down just a little].
** Personally I think this is rather high, see “ready to vomit” remark, above. I know at least as many people who just wants parliament to pass the damn thing already so we can STOP talkingthinkingfretting about it. Which makes it even more interesting to see the results.

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  • sigga December 15, 2009, 12:33 am

    This is my dilemma, I am not happy with saying yes to Icesave and giving a sovereign guarantee, I also know that by not saying yes we are going into the unknown, are we strong enough to withstand the negative reaction from much larger nations, both politically and economically? I so want to say no, but at the same time are we ready to be the tough guys we want to be and do a high noon stand off with the Dutch and English? and also, do I have all the information required to make an informative decision??????”

  • Bromley86 December 15, 2009, 12:45 am

    This is all Alexander’s fault. Alexander, where are you?

    Seriously, is this related in any way, as it seems to be pretty-much the sort of thing you’ve been talking about for a while? Although Sigga makes my point for me in that the information available to the voters is less than perfect.

  • James December 15, 2009, 12:54 am

    Referendums may be good for some things, eg a third of the UK population watched The X-Factor final on Sunday and more people voted via text for that than voted in our last general election. But I wouldn’t trust the general population for anything important! 🙂

  • María December 15, 2009, 1:52 am

    Smog?? In Reykjavík?!

  • meika December 15, 2009, 2:44 am

    Just say No.

    Unless the new laws include some nifty mechanism for identifying who gave Iceland all that free market economic advice and they personally guarantee ICEsave ahead of any call on a sovereign guarantee, particularly if these emotionally bankrupt numbskulls live in the UK or the USA.

  • idunn December 15, 2009, 8:08 am

    What I love is the concept of online voting. Yes, of course happens all the time, but in an entirely secure and accurate manner something else altogether. The implications are, well, democratic.

  • James December 15, 2009, 12:11 pm

    “The implications are, well, democratic”

    Parliament normally makes policy decisions in a parliamentary democracy. Referendums weaken parliament and, in this case, a “no” result on a single policy choice would probably end the current democratically-elected government. So, do Icelanders pushing for the President to call a referendum actually want the Independence Party back in? It would seem impossible to have both a “no” result and retain the current government…

  • Joerg December 15, 2009, 2:18 pm

    Direct democracy is often enough misused by populists for their own purposes and prone to infringe on minority rights. The general public usually does not have all information to decide prudently and a yes-no-decision can not reflect complex situations. I feel definitely better, if it’s not up to the crowds to decide on crucial matters. And in this case like in many others, it’s easy to just say ‘no’ but very difficult to know, what comes thereafter. I think, the Icelandic president should be well-advised not to play some populist kind of role here.

    If it is just about testing the new voting system, then let’s rather have everybody vote for their favourite Julelad. 😉

  • hildigunnur December 15, 2009, 3:58 pm

    I’m afraid this bank thing won’t get enough people to vote, until now about 70% of the votes are from men, why aren’t the women voting? Less computerized? Less inclined to trust the voting system? fewer with an online banking account? (don’t believe that one).

  • alda December 15, 2009, 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the input, everyone.

    Bromley – no, actually this is the first such vote that has been undertaken. And I also wonder – where IS Alexander? 😉

    María – oh yes indeed!

    Hildigunnur – they just don’t care as much? Are just sick of it more?

  • alda December 15, 2009, 5:20 pm
  • Sigvaldi Eggertsson December 15, 2009, 6:49 pm

    On a completely different topic; you can now watch Hekla live on the web: http://www.ruv.is/hekla.
    They are, apparently, expecting an eruption there at any time now.

  • alda December 15, 2009, 7:53 pm

    Oh dear, I accidentally deleted a comment from Jóhanna! Please Jóhanna, come back and post it again!

  • BRADSTREET December 15, 2009, 10:04 pm

    I know that it’s easy for me to say so, but I really don’t think that the Icelandic public should be made responsible for private debts , especially when those debts will pauperize them for years to come.
    Sigga wonders whether Iceland will be able to stand up to my nation and the Dutch. I would remind everyone that in the early part of next year the British will elect a new government, and it’s quite likely to be very different from the one that we have now. Unlike the whey-faced loon currently in power, David Cameron will want to make as many friends as possible on the world stage. He will be anxious to put as much distance from Brown’s policies as he can.I would suggest that it’s quite possible for Iceland to negotiate some better method for settling the debt. There is so little coverage in the British Media of the Icesave thing, that any deal would not struggle to overcome negative publicity. Whatever deal is cut will have to be better than the one at the moment.

    I’m feeling very Icelandic at the moment. When I get to work it’s dark, I spend all day in a windowless office, and when I go home it’s gone dark again. Four hours of sunshine? I’m not getting any!!!!

  • idunn December 15, 2009, 10:37 pm

    I’ll stand by democracy, parliamentary or not. A referendum doesn’t necessarily have to be binding, but if the final decision different from the popular will, then some very good explanations should be provided. And, if the citizens value their democracy, they should be well enough informed, make a point of it, to know the difference and ask the right questions.

    Otherwise? Well then let the king decide all, as obviously only he and his court erudite enough to make proper decisions, not the common rabble. Something like how centers of power operate now, assuming they can generally have their way because the larger herd is too disorganized, unfocused and lazy to pay much attention or care.

    Although in my experience most politicians very much pay attention when confronted with a majority of citizens who won’t take no for an answer. They do value their jobs, and mindful of elections.

  • BRADSTREET December 15, 2009, 11:17 pm

    Has my comment been deleted? I can’t see it anywhere.

  • alda December 15, 2009, 11:34 pm

    Bradstreet – somehow it wound up in spam. Wonder if the spam filter wanted to eat “Icesave” or “whey-faced loon”?

  • BRADSTREET December 15, 2009, 11:45 pm

    It does boggle the mind. How many spammers are trying to sell “whey-faced loons” on the net?

  • Joerg December 16, 2009, 6:36 am

    There seemed to be problems with the comments to this post. Even without the Ices***-word in the comment I couldn’t even tell, if I had pressed the ‘Submit’-button. There was no response. You probably got my comment multiple times. Apparently, the spam-filter is sick of this matter, too.

  • Johanna December 16, 2009, 6:43 pm

    Just wanted to say that I´m glad you found Alexander. I hope he’ll start commenting again soon.

  • Alva December 16, 2009, 9:25 pm

    Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)?

    http://www.economist.com/daily/columns/greenview/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108365

    Ask Orkuveita Reykjavík if this gas is used in any of their components in their power facilities. If they say no, then get back to me. You can´t promote green while doing other than green!

  • James December 19, 2009, 10:14 am

    I read that 70% of the online “voters” rejected the sovereign guarantee on Icesave. I wonder if the Icelandic government will comment on that result; I bet the opposition will…