Putsch: Iceland‘s crowd-sourced constitution killed by parliament

Extracted from Thorvaldur Gylfason’s blog:

Following its spectacular plunge from grace in 2008 when its banking system crashed, Iceland invited the people of Iceland to draft a new post-crash constitution designed inter alia to reduce the likelihood of another crash. A National Assembly was convened comprising 950 individuals selected at random from the national registry. Every Icelander 18 years or older had an equal chance of being selected to a seat in the assembly. Next, from a roaster of 522 candidates from all walks of life, 25 representatives were elected by the nation to a Constitutional Assembly to draft a new constitution reflecting the popular will as expressed by the National Assembly. Believe it or not, the Supreme Court, with eight of its nine justices at the time having been appointed by the Independence Party, now disgraced as the main culprit of the crash and in opposition, annulled the Constitutional Assembly election on flimsy and probably also illegal grounds, a unique event. . .

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7 Responses

  1. Baldur Bjarnason’s blog gives a very different perspective on what went on:

    http://studiotendra.com/2013/03/29/icelands-crowd-sourced-constitution-is-dead/

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  2. Yes, it is a different perspective, that doesn’t suggest a putsch by black-robed lawyers. But it’s also an indictment of open-mandate sortition:

    “It resulted in a predictably vague and wishy-washy list of touchy-feely priorities—little more than ordering a list of pre-selected words in order of importance along with a bunch of meaningless single sentence slogans.”

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  3. The “wishy-washy” nature of the output of the constitutional body reflects the simple fact that life cannot be boiled down to a set of concrete rules. This is really a refutation of the idea (expressed occasionally by Chouard for example) that the crucial step in unseating the Western system is writing a good constitution. If fact, the crucial step is making sure that day-to-day politics is democratic, i.e., controlled by a representative body (or bodies).

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  4. What is a constitution if it is not a set of concrete rules?

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  5. Martin – thanks for the link – very illuminating. Baldur Bjarnason makes some very good points. His comments about the difference between establishment rhetoric and reality regarding the success of the “pots and pans revolution” are very interesting. They indicate, once again, that mass politics (“participation”) is an extremely weak tool for promoting public interests.

    (The second lesson is, of course, that what passes in Western Media for analysis is mostly drivel.)

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  6. That may or may not be true in general (although it’s something of a sweeping generalisation), but in this particular case the author is an economics professor at the University of Iceland and a member of the Constitutional Council, rather than a “drivelling” journalist.

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  7. @keithsutherland:

    > it’s also an indictment of open-mandate sortition

    On the contrary, this is an indictment of a political body with no *real* power.

    The central problem is that:

    > it was known from the start that whatever the constitutional parliament drafted would be non-binding—that the constitution draft would be rewritten by politicians anyway, rendering the entire exercise somewhat meaningless.

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