By a Newsnet reporter
The people of Iceland are to be given the opportunity to vote on whether to accept plans for a new draft constitution.
The population of around 320,000 are to be offered the chance to decide on whether a range of issues should be protected by law in a referendum to be held on 20 October 2012.
The vote follows deliberations by the nation’s Constitutional Council which was set up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that saw the country’s banks collapse with debts that ran into billions.
Following the calamity, Iceland set up a council made up of 25 ordinary citizens tasked with drafting proposals for a constitution aimed in part at ensuring the practices that brought about the collapse of Iceland’s banks could not happen again.
In a unique and novel move, the process was opened up to the wider public who were allowed to input their own ideas and suggestions to the process through online social media.
Termed ‘crowd-sourcing’, the Constitutional Council was highly active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, where they solicited comments and suggestions for the new government.
“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet,” said Thorvaldur Gylfason in June 2011, a member of Iceland’s constitutional council.
“The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch.”
On Friday July 29th, 2011, the Iceland parliament officially received the new constitution, comprised of over 700 pages of 114 articles divided into 9 chapters.
The referendum will ask the public their views on a range of proposals including whether natural resources should be designated national property and whether the people can demand a referendum be held on specific issues.
All Icelandics are entitled to vote provided they appear on the voters register as published on the 29th September.
If ratified, the Icelandic constitution will be the first in history to have been drafted transparently in full view of, and with the participation of, a country’s citizens.
The referendum will signal the end of a tumultuous period in Iceland’s history. Iceland’s economic recovery has been as swift as its demise, in June this year the small independent nation repaid $483.7 million in loans to the International Monetary Fund. The early repayment followed another of more than $900 million in March.
Powered by tourism, exports and domestic consumption, Icelandic GDP grew 2.4 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2012 to put annual economic growth at 4.5 percent in the period, the highest since the first quarter of 2008.
By contrast, the UK economy is currently mired in a double-dip recession with the second quarter growth of minus 0.5%, the revised figure a slight improvement on the original -0.7% reported estimate.
The following questions will be put to the Icelandic electorate in the referendum:
1. Do you wish the Constitution Council’s proposals to form the basis of a new draft Constitution?
2. In the new Constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property?
3. Would you like to see provisions in the new Constitution on an established (national) church in Iceland?
4. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution authorising the election of particular individuals to the Althingi more than is the case at present?
5. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution giving equal weight to votes cast in all parts of the country?
6. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution stating that a certain proportion of the electorate is able to demand that issues are put to a referendum?
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