This section documents the remarkable constitutional revision process of 2010 to 2012, a process that produced what has sometimes been called The Crowd-Sourced Constitution. In a 2012 referendum Icelanders agreed that this document should form the basis of a new constitution. To date, Alþingi has not ratified the crowd-sourced constitution.
The call for a new constitution was one of the demands that arose from the protests following the Icelandic financial crisis of 2008, also referred to as the Pots and Pans Revolution (Icelandic: Búsáhaldabyltingin). Although Alþingi intended to write a new constitution in it’s first term after the declaration of independence from Danmark in 1944, the only substantial revision happened when the chapter on human right’s was revised half a century later. The demand for a new constitution gained new momentum and urgency with the financial crisis since many felt that government and the democratic system had failed and needed an overhaul. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the leader the Social Democrats, and a long time advocate for constitutional change became Prime Minister of Iceland’s first Left wing government after the elections held late April 2009, and her government decided to convene a constitutional assembly to discuss changes to the Constitution.
All political parties in the Parliament of Iceland are now working together in reforming the constitution. In the government’s coalition agreement, it is stated that the government intends to continue constitutional revision in a consensus over party lines with extensive public participation.
The prime minister of Iceland has put forward a plan in which the constitution will be revised over two terms. Party leaders of political parties in the Parliament meet regularly, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, to discuss the progress of this ongoing project. This current program is based on the extensive work that has already been done in constitutional revision over the last years; A National Assembly, The Constitutional Council, political constitutional committees in 2005-2007 and 2013-2016, results from the referendum on the draft of the Constitutional Council in 2012 and the ongoing public discourse about the topic.
During the next two terms, these specific constitutional articles will be discussed:
- In 2018-2021: National ownership of natural resources, environmental protection, referendums and citizens’ initiatives, international relations, the role of the President, the executive branch and constitutional changes.
- In 2021-2025 these topics will be discussed: The Parliament and its budgetary powers, parliamentary elections and the courts, the national church, human rights and other outstanding issues.
According to the government, the procedure will be the following: When the party leaders have produced constitutional reform bills, they will be published in the government’s online public consultation forum. Constant cooperation will be between the party leaders and the Parliament’s Constitutional and Supervisory Committee. The government will make sure that this constitutional work will be transparent and that the public will be consulted in the process. Certain civic engagement methods will be applied, such as a deliberative poll.
Constitutional bills will be put forward in the parliament in the last year of this term, which means in the fall of 2020.
The government’s constitutional webpage www.stjornarskra.is
The civic engagement process on behalf of the Office of the Prime Minister and the University of Iceland took place in June-November 2019. This participatory process included a deliberative poll, which consisted of a large opinion poll in the summer of 2019 about constitutional matters, and a smaller deliberative poll where a random sample of citizens of Iceland were invited to discuss certain articles of the constitution on November 9th and 10th of 2019. Around 2000 citizens answered the opinion poll, and 240 citizens participated in the deliberative poll.
Alongside the polls, an online crowdsourcing forum was offered by Betra Ísland (Better Iceland) and the University of Iceland from September 26th to November 10th 2019 where the public could share their opinion on any constitutional-related issue..