Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson became the first president in Iceland’s history to submit a protocol at a state council meeting on December 31, about the bill on amendments to the Constitution of Iceland currently up for discussion at parliament.
In his New Year’s Day speech, Ólafur criticized the bill, among other issues for suggesting that the state council, comprised of the president and ministers, be abolished, ruv.is reports.
With the move, the platform for collaboration between the national leader and government would disappear, the president reasoned in his speech.
“It was never a platform for collaboration,” stated historian Guðni Th. Jóhannesson of the state council. “But who knows whether [Ólafur] decides to assemble it more often now than what has been the case so far.”
According to RÚV’s sources, the submission of the protocol led to an argument at the state council meeting, something that has never happened before as far as sources go.
The president’s role in Iceland has traditionally been figurative but that appears to be changing.
University of Iceland law professor Björg Thorarensen told ruv.is that as stated in the procedure for the state council from 1943, the president has the authority to submit protocols at the council’s meetings.
The president expressing his views on a matter in this form has no direct administrational meaning, Björg said, as the prime minister is not obligated to react to the protocol.
However, it is certainly an exception from the tradition that the president does not interfere in a matter not yet closed by parliament, she added, and perhaps it would be logical for the prime minister to react.
Assistant to Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Hrannar B. Arnarsson, told ruv.is that the PM would not comment on the issue; it is prohibited to discuss state council meetings, he stated.
Click here to read more about the president’s and PM’s opposing views of the constitution bill.