Constitutional Council

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Elections to Althingi

The Constitutional Council’s proposal for the election of members of Althingi includes a fairly radical, although not unexpected change, proposing a system of preferential voting.  The proposal is a little short on details, which will be provided in a legislation about parliamentary elections.  However, the proposal stipulates that 63 members will be elected from eight or fewer districts and that voters can either vote for a party list or individual candidates.  If the voters opt for voting for individual candidates they are allowed to distribute their votes across candidates of different parties and are free to vote candidate running in any district (if there is more than one district).   The electoral law can require up to 2/5 of the seats in parliament to be elected from district lists (rather than a national list).

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Parliament/Alþingi – Committees & Ministers

The constitutional council’s proposal includes proposals intended to strengthen parliament vis-a-vis the executive office.  These proposals include handing legislative committees (monopoly?) proposal power and requiring ministers to give up their seats in parliament upon taking office.  The council’s explanations envision a process in which ministers approach the committees about proposing legislation, which is then developed by the committees.  By requiring ministers to resign their seat in parliament, the council hopes that ministers will to a greater degree not come from the ranks of MPs.  In short, it is not likely that these proposal will do much to strengthen parliament.

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Parliament/Alþingi – The Speaker

The constitutional council has begun publishing its proposals for sections of a new constitutions. So far these sections include human rights, the work of parliament, and the judiciary. With this post, I start reviewing some of the proposals concerning the organization and work of parliament. I will focus on the proposals that may be considered consequential or controversial. In translating the proposals I focus on what are the key issues rather than provide a full translation.

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From an Assembly to a Council

Despite lack of activity on this blog, constitutional reform in Iceland moves forward.  After the Supreme Court invalidated the outcome of the election, the government moved ahead to simply appoint the candidates that would have won a seat – in effect showing the courts the middle finger.  And as a result the title of the blog is now outdated updated as the assembly is now the Constitutional Council. Continue reading

Re-electing the Assembly?

Last week the Icelandic Supreme Court ruled the election to the Constitutional Assembly null and void.  One can naturally debate the reasons the Court cited (various administrative errors, e.g., ballot boxes not having locks) but I’m not particularly interested in arguing about those.  The interesting question, of course, is “What now?”  One option is to simply hold the election again.  Another option that has been voiced is to do without an election and having parliament simply appoint the members elected in the voided election. Continue reading

Those damn political parties!

The power of political parties has become, perhaps increasingly, a common complaint of observers and participants in Icelandic politics and many of the proposed reforms of the political system have focused on reducing the power of political parties.  For example, by introducing an element of a `personal vote’ into the electoral system (usually by adopting an open list proportional representation system) and measures to strengthen parliament vis-à-vis the executive. Continue reading

Electing an outcome

I have to admit that I didn’t follow the debate about the bill on the Constitutional Assembly to closely but I have to say that I’m a bit surprised that the method of electing the assembly didn’t generate a more heated debate.  The members of the Constitutional Assembly were elected using a single national district.  One of the bigger issues, e.g., singled out by the previous government, was a reform of the electoral system.  Given that the current electoral system is characterized by a high degree of malapportionment (unequal representation per capita in geographic terms), is it surprising that the elected members tend to favor a single national district for the election of Althingi and the equal weight of votes regardless of geographic location? Continue reading

Turnout in the Constitutional Assembly Election

Turnout in the elections to the Constitutional Assembly was 36.77%. In contrast, the average turnout in parliamentary elections is about 87% and 81% in local elections. In this context, turnout in the election may seem almost shockingly low. However, comparing regular parliamentary and local elections with the elections to the constitutional assembly is also a bit absurd. Frankly, all things considered, I think 36.77% turnout is pretty good.
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Required reading I

I guess it is time for the first reading assignment for the newly elected Constitutional Assembly.  A couple of interesting (potentially) reads I stumbled upon today.

First, Roger Congleton just published Perfecting Parliament: Constitutional Reform, Liberalism, and the Rise of Western Democracy.   Continue reading

How many votes does it take?

While the Single Transferable Vote has some nice qualities, it is possible that it may not work that nicely for electing the members of the Constituency Assembly.  The number of candidates and the possibility that voters will rank (far) less than 25 candidates may mean that some of the members of the Constitutional Assembly will be elected with only a few votes.

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