Constitution of Iceland

The Constitution of Iceland (Icelandic: Stjórnarskrá lýðveldisins Íslands "Constitution of the republic of Iceland") is the supreme law of Iceland. It is composed of 80 articles in seven sections, and within it the leadership arrangement of the country is determined and the human rights of its citizens are preserved. The current constitution was first instituted on June 17, 1944; since then, it has been amended seven times.[1]

History

In the 19th century, the Icelandic independence movement was gaining momentum, while nationalism and demands for increased civil rights intensified in mainland Europe. In June 1849, the king of Denmark was forced to meet the demands of the liberals and the nationalists, and agree to a constitution for Denmark and thus also with Iceland. This constitution repealed the absolute monarchy and established a constitutional monarchy in which power over most important issues was handed over to a parliament elected by the people.

This change was not well-received with Icelanders, as it in reality translated to reduced autonomy for Iceland. Before 1849, Icelanders had officially ruled themselves as they happened to see fit in domestic matters. But now those matters were falling under the control of parliaments over which Icelanders had no influence. The Danes were reluctant to meet the demands of Icelanders for self-government as set forth during the National Assembly of 1851, in the belief that it would weaken Denmark's control in Schleswig and Holstein. But when said region was annexed by Prussia in 1867, new conditions were created and stöðulögin ("the laws of standing") were passed 1871, which determined the standing of Iceland in relation to the Danish state. In 1874, on the millennial anniversary of the settlement in Iceland, Christian IX became king of Denmark and attended the festivities of the watershed occasion. This opportunity was used to give Iceland its own separate constitution. This constitution was called Stjórnarskrá um hin sérstaklegu málefni Íslands, and was the basis of Iceland's current constitution.

With the sambandslögin ("relationship law") of 1918, Iceland became a sovereign state and in 1920 the country received a new constitution to reflect this large change. This constitution was called Stjórnarskrá konungsríkisins Íslands. In early 1944 the Althing approved the cancellation of the sambandslögin and agreed to a new constitution, in addition to proclaiming a referendum to both. An election was run in May of the same year and had a turnout of 98%. 97% voted to break off the current relationship law with Denmark and 95% approved a constitutional republic. On June 17, 1944 the Althing met at Þingvellir, where the constitution was ratified and the republic established.

After the ratification of the constitution, it has been amended seven times in total, mostly due to changes in the structure of the constituencies of Iceland and the conditions of voting eligibility. In 1991 the organization of Althing changed so that it now worked in one house rather than two as previously before. Extensive modifications were made in 1995 when the human rights sections of the constitution were reviewed.

Sections of the Constitution

Section I.

Section I states that Iceland is a Republic with a parliamentary government, and the Althing and the president jointly exercise legislative power and judges exercise judicial power.

Section II.

Section II contains articles 3 through 30, and states where the Presidential Seat is, meetings with the Althingi, and presidential rights.

Section III.

Section III contains articles 31–34, and defines term limits for Althingi members, and that any citizen of Iceland can be elected to the Althingi, except for Supreme Court Judges.

Section IV.

Section IV contains articles 35-58, and defines the major issues concerning the activity of the parliament and determines the rights and power of the MPs. The section says that nobody is allowed to approve a bill before three readings in the Althing, and Althing meetings shall take place in public unless otherwise approved by the Parliament. The majority of MPs must be present to deal with an issue. Many other parliamentary procedural rules are legally defined according to the 58th article.

Section V.

Section V contains articles 59-61, and describes the regulation of judiciary. It says that the judiciary may be established by law, that the judiciary will settle disputes around competence of authorities, and that the judiciary shall be guided solely by law.

Section VI.

Section VI contains articles 62-64, and sets the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the State Church and establishes freedom of religion.

Section VII.

Section VII contains articles number 65-79, and defines several human rights (including disallowing torture, forced labor, and the death penalty, requiring a public trial for anybody accused of a crime, and freedom of speech). It also says that the law shall provide that everybody has a right to health care and education. It says that matters according to taxes are regulated by law, and municipalities may manage their own affairs in accordance to the law. Finally, it gives provisions for amending the constitution.

Amendments to the Constitution

The 79th Article of the Constitution describes how to enact amendments to the constitution. In order for an amendment to be passed, it must be approved by two consecutive parliamentary assemblies, with a general election in between.[2] The president of Iceland must also confirm any amendment as provided by general law. Several articles in the constitution, however, are exempt from this process and can be changed by ordinary legislation. For example, the 35th article deals with the assembly time of Parliament, and this may be changed by general law. The 62nd article defines the State Church to be the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This may also be changed by general law, provided it is confirmed by a referendum available by secret ballot to all those able to vote.

Constitutional reform

Between 2010 and 2013, in the wake of the Kitchenware Revolution, Iceland's constitution was proposed to be revised through the world's first crowd-sourced constitution.[3] On October 20, 2012 an advisory referendum secured the support of 64.2%[4] of the Icelandic citizens. However, the constitutional reform eventually failed.[5]

References

  1. ^ Icelandic Parliament's website
  2. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of Iceland (English Version)". Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  3. ^ Meet Birgitta Jónsdóttir: The Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer Who Has Helped the Pirate Party Reshape Iceland Democracy Now! 1 November 2016
  4. ^ "Niðurstaða talningar við þjóðaratkvæðagreiðsluna 20.október 2012". Landskjörstjórn (in Icelandic). 2012-10-23. Archived from the original on 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  5. ^ Thorarensen, Björg (2014-02-26). "Why the making of a crowd-sourced Constitution in Iceland failed". "Constitution-Making and Constitutional Change Blog" of the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL). Archived from the original on 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
1944 Icelandic constitutional referendum

A referendum was held in Iceland between 20 and 23 May 1944. Voters were asked whether the Union with Denmark should be abolished and whether to adopt a new republican constitution. Both measures were approved with more than 98% in favour. Voter turnout was 98.4%, and 100% in two constituencies, Seyðisfirði and Vestur-Skaftafjellssýsla.The 1918 Danish–Icelandic Act of Union had granted Iceland independence, but maintained the two countries in a personal union, with the King of Denmark also being the King of Iceland.

2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests

The 2009–2011 Icelandic financial crisis protests, also referred to as the Kitchenware/Kitchen Implement or Pots and Pans Revolution (Icelandic: Búsáhaldabyltingin), occurred in the wake of the Icelandic financial crisis. There had been regular and growing protests since October 2008 against the Icelandic government's handling of the financial crisis. The protests intensified on 20 January 2009 with thousands of people showing up to protest at the parliament (Althing) in Reykjavík. These were at the time, the largest protests in Icelandic history.Protesters were calling for the resignation of government officials and for new elections to be held. The protests stopped for the most part with the resignation of the old government led by the right-wing Independence Party. A new left-wing government was formed after elections in late April 2009. It was supportive of the protestors and initiated a reform process that included the judicial prosecution before the Landsdómur of the former Prime Minister Geir Haarde.

Several referenda were held to ask the citizens about whether to pay the Icesave debt of their banks. From a complex and unique process, 25 common people, of no political party, were to be elected to form an Icelandic Constitutional Assembly that would write a new Constitution of Iceland. After some legal problems, a Constitutional Council, which included those people, presented a Constitution Draft to the Iceland Parliament on 29 July 2011.

2010 Icelandic Constitutional Assembly election

Constitutional Assembly elections were held in Iceland on 27 November 2010. The Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the results of the election on 25 January 2011 following complaints about several faults in how the election was conducted. However, it was decided on 25 February 2011 that the elected assembly members would instead be appointed to a Constitutional Council with effectively the same role. The proposed changes to the constitution were approved in a referendum in October 2012.

2010 Icelandic loan guarantees referendum

The Icelandic loan guarantees referendum, also known as the Icesave referendum (Icelandic: Þjóðaratkvæðagreiðsla um Icesave), was held in Iceland on 6 March 2010.The referendum was held to approve the terms of a state guarantee on the obligation of the Depositors' and Investors' Guarantee Fund (Tryggingarsjóður innstæðueigenda og fjárfesta), in particular a €3.8 billion loan (€11,964 per person) from the governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to cover deposit insurance obligations in those countries. The referendum was held under article 26 of the Constitution of Iceland after President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson refused to counter-sign the corresponding Act of Parliament (known as the second Icesave bill) into law on 5 January 2010. The proposal was resoundingly defeated, with 98% voting against and less than 2% in favor.

The referendum was the first to be held in Iceland since 1944, and required special legislation. The Althing (Iceland's parliament) approved a motion on 8 January 2010 which called for the referendum to be held by 6 March at the latest. The motion passed by 49–0 with 14 abstentions. The date of the referendum was later set for 6 March.

2010–13 Icelandic constitutional reform

An Icelandic Constitutional Council (Stjórnlagaráð) for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution of the Republic was appointed by a resolution of Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, on 24 March 2011. Elections were held to create a Constitutional Assembly (Stjórnlagaþing) body, but given some electoral flaws, had been ruled null and void by the Supreme Court of Iceland on 25 January 2011, leading the parliament to place most of the wining candidate into a Council with similar mission. The question of whether the text of the proposed constitution should form a base for a future constitution was put to a non-binding referendum, where it won the approval of 67% of voters. However, the government's term finished before the reform bill could be passed, and the next government has not (as of April 2013) acted upon it.

2012 Icelandic constitutional referendum

A non-binding constitutional referendum was held in Iceland on 20 October 2012. Voters were asked whether they approved of six proposals included in a new draft constitution drawn up by the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly. All six questions were approved by voters.

Administrative divisions of Iceland

This article shows the administrative divisions of Iceland.

Althing

The Alþingi (parliament (Icelandic) and anglicised as Althingi or Althing) is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest parliament in the world. The Althing was founded in 930 at Þingvellir ("thing fields"), situated approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) east of what later became the country's capital, Reykjavík. Even after Iceland's union with Norway in 1262, the Althing still held its sessions at Þingvellir until 1800, when it was discontinued for 45 years. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, made of hewn Icelandic stone.The unicameral parliament has 63 members, and is elected every four years based on party-list proportional representation.The constitution of Iceland provides for six electoral constituencies with the possibility of an increase to seven. The constituency boundaries and the number of seats allocated to each constituency are fixed by legislation. No constituency can be represented by fewer than six seats. Furthermore, each party with more than 5% of the national vote is allocated seats based on its proportion of the national vote in order that the number of members in parliament for each political party should be more or less proportional to its overall electoral support. If the number of voters represented by each member of Alþingi in one constituency would be less than half of the comparable ratio in another constituency, the Icelandic National Electoral Commission is tasked with altering the allocation of seats to reduce that difference.The current speaker of the Althing is Steingrímur J. Sigfússon.

Freedom of religion in Iceland

Freedom of religion in Iceland is guaranteed by the 64th article of the Constitution of Iceland. However at the same time the 62nd article states that the Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the national church (þjóðkirkja) and the national curriculum places emphasis on Christian studies.

A "church tax" is collected by the government and is paid out to churches and religious groups according to the number of members.Those who are registered as non-religious (not belonging to any religious group) also pay the tax, which is used to support the University of Iceland.

The national curriculum requires special classes on Christian studies from first grade, other religions are also mentioned.Babies are registered at birth with the same religious affiliation as their parents. If their parents are married and belong to different religious groups, the babies are not registered in any church until the parents agree on how to register them. If the parents are not married when the child is born, the baby is registered with the same affiliation as the parent who has custody of the child.

History of Icelandic nationality

This article is about the history of Icelandic nationality.

Iceland

Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 348,580 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.

According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin. The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway's integration into that union, coming under Danish rule after Sweden's secession from the union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence. In the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Iceland's struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 and the founding of a republic in 1944. Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture, and was among the poorest countries in Europe. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.

Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes, compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in economic, democratic, social stability, and equality, currently ranking first in the world by median wealth per adult. In 2018, it was ranked as the sixth most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index, and it ranks first on the Global Peace Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy. Hit hard by the worldwide financial crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Some bankers were jailed. Since then, the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism. A law that took effect in 2018 makes it illegal in Iceland for women to be paid less than men.Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, with a lightly armed coast guard.

List of national constitutions

The following is a list of existing national constitutions by country, semi-recognized countries, and by codification.

List of sovereign states

The following is a list providing an overview of sovereign states around the world, with information on their status and recognition of their sovereignty.

The 206 listed states can be divided into three categories based on membership within the United Nations system: 193 member states, two observer states and 11 other states. The sovereignty dispute column indicates states whose sovereignty is undisputed (190 states) and states whose sovereignty is disputed (16 states, of which there are six member states, one observer state and nine other states).

Compiling a list such as this can be a difficult and controversial process, as there is no definition that is binding on all the members of the community of nations concerning the criteria for statehood. For more information on the criteria used to determine the contents of this list, please see the criteria for inclusion section below. The list is intended to include entities that have been recognised as having de facto status as sovereign states, and inclusion should not be seen as an endorsement of any specific claim to statehood in legal terms.

Local government

A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state. The term is used to contrast with offices at state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government and also to supranational government which deals with governing institutions between states. Local governments generally act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises the third (or sometimes fourth) tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government, often with greater powers than higher-level administrative divisions.

The question of municipal autonomy is a key question of public administration and governance. The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire, village, and local service district.

Media of Iceland

The media in Iceland are well-developed for a country of its size. The Constitution of Iceland guarantees absolute freedom of speech. Therefore, Iceland’s media are among the freest in the world.

Iceland has been in the top ten of the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, since it was first compiled in 2002 until 2014. It was first or joint first in 2002-2008 and 2010. Its 2015 ranking is twenty one, reflecting a sharp deterioration in freedom of information since 2013, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Minister for Iceland

Minister for Iceland (Danish: Minister for Island, Icelandic: Ráðherra Íslands) was a post in the Danish cabinet for Icelandic affairs.

Outline of Iceland

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Iceland:

Iceland – sovereign island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean between continental Europe and Greenland. It is considered part of Northern Europe. It is the least populous of the Nordic countries, having a population of about 329,000 (January 1, 2015). Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape in various ways. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.

Prime Minister of Iceland

The Prime Minister of Iceland (Icelandic: Forsætisráðherra Íslands) is Iceland's head of government. The prime minister is appointed formally by the President and exercises executive authority along with the cabinet subject to parliamentary support.

Supreme Court of Iceland

The Supreme Court of Iceland (Icelandic: Hæstiréttur Íslands, lit. Highest Court of Iceland) is the final court of appeal in the judiciary of Iceland. It is also the oldest of the current courts of law in Iceland and the highest of the three Icelandic court branches, the others being the District Courts of Iceland and the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur).

Notwithstanding the fact that the Court is not mentioned by name in the Constitution of Iceland but only its justices, it is validated in the Courts Act No. 50/2016. The Supreme Court of Iceland is located at the Dómhúsið (Courthouse) at Arnarhóll in Reykjavík, a building that was specially built for that purpose and that came into use in 1996.

The current President of the court is Þorgeir Örlygsson.

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