Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Iceland referendum headed for victory

–Tom Ginsburg

With two-thirds of the votes counted, it appears that Iceland’s citizen-drafted proposal for constitutional reform is headed for victory. Roughly half of eligible voters turned out for the referendum, which asked voters to consider six different questions covering key aspects of the proposed new Constitution.  The draft included an expanded set of citizen rights, greater public involvement in governance, and a declaration that natural resources are the property of the state.  A detailed analysis of the proposal is here.

The referendum is only advisory.  The next step is preparation of a proposal for parliamentary consideration. If the parliament passes the proposal, parliament will be dissolved under the terms of Art. 79 of the current Constitution, and elections will be held.  A new parliament must then pass the proposal.  In a sense, the proposal will face another referendum in the form of these elections, which will no doubt feature extensive discussion of the issues.

Iceland is a small country, but its experiment with direct public involvement in constitution-making is sure to be closely scrutinized by others.  Interesting as well is the importance of public control of natural resources, which has been a major constitutional issue in many developing countries, amid a rising swell of resource nationalism around the globe.


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