Fourth Round of Changes Proposed to Election Legislation

municipal election Skorradalur - Skorradalshreppur

A plan to review Iceland’s election legislation has been published on the government’s consultation website Samráðsgátt. New election legislation that took effect in January of this year caused headaches for smaller municipalities in municipal elections last May. RÚV reported first.

The new legislation tightened requirements for election committee members by ruling out anyone with close connections to candidates in the municipality. Those whose spouse, partner, sibling, child, grandchild, or even certain in-laws were running in the election were disqualified from being on the election committee, which made it a great challenge for municipalities with small populations to staff their election committees.

The article on election committee qualifications is not the only one the legislators intend to change. The plan also considers it necessary to amend the article concerning outer ballot envelopes, which reportedly caused counting delays in the May election.

While the election legislation was written through a process of broad consultation between 2016 and 2020, it has already been amended three times to address deficiencies, including discrepancies in calendar dates.

Permanent Military Presence in Iceland Not on Government’s Agenda

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir NATO summit madrid

Iceland’s National Security Council has no plans to request permanent military presence in Iceland, according to the country’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Katrín told RÚV that Iceland is, however, reviewing its national security policy and working on an updated risk assessment in light of the war in Ukraine.

The security environment in Europe is in a period of change following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The invasion has led to Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership, a move Iceland’s government has supported.

NATO member countries regularly monitor the airspace over Iceland, and increasing that monitoring is a consideration. The Prime Minister says, however, there are no plans to reinstate permanent military presence in Iceland.

Both Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir are currently attending a NATO summit in Madrid. “We have not been discussing a permanent military presence in Iceland, that we have not been discussing,” Katrín told RÚV reporters, adding that the current priorities of Iceland’s security policy were twofold: reviewing security policy and updating the risk assessment for Iceland.

The current security policy was implmented in 2016, and although the Prime Minister believes it has served well, there are “certain points that need to be fine-tuned.” The risk assessment focuses mostly on how Iceland can increase its preparedness, and Katrín emphasised that this does not involve any sort of permanent military presence.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir stated the government intends to increase investment at Keflavík Airport, taking into account NATO’s security priorities. Those priorities, however, are mainly focused on the east and south of NATO’s area of influence, Þórdís stated.

As for a permanent military presence in Iceland, Þórdís stated: “It’s not on the agenda.”

Iceland is a founding member of NATO but does not have its own military. US forces maintained a permanent presence in the country from World War II until 2006.

Icelandic Breweries Can Now Sell Directly to Customers

Kaldi beer brewery

Starting tomorrow, July 1, breweries in Iceland will be permitted to sell their alcoholic products directly to customers. The change is thanks to a parliamentary bill passed on June 15 that somewhat relaxes the state monopoly on alcohol sales. While some say it’s high time alcohol was available for sale outside of state-run stores, others are wary increased availability will lead to higher rates of alcoholism.

The changes are long overdue, according to Ólafur Stephensen, CEO of the Icelandic Federation of Trade. He told RÚV that he hopes to see legislation concerning alcohol sales relaxed even further.

See Also: Business Booming for Online Alcohol Retailers

“The goal of the bill was, among other things, to strengthen culture-related tourism around breweries in the countryside. The result is that one or two breweries are excluded, both in Eyjafjörður [North Iceland]. And one producer of spirits in Borgarnes. There is no logic to that,” Ólafur stated, adding that there is no reason producers of spirits shouldn’t also be allowed to sell their products on site.

“These are companies that have the same criteria and have been building up tourism around their operations and production. These breweries produce too much and are therefore too big to fall under these legal amendments.”

The lack of alcoholic beverages in Icelandic grocery stores catches many foreign tourists by surprise. The state-run liquor store, Vínbúðin, is expensive, and opening hours can be sporadic during holidays and in more rural parts of the country. Vínbúðin stores are always closed on Sundays. While some have argued that increased access to alcohol will lead to increased alcohol abuse, a recent survey shows that almost half of Icelanders want beer and wine to be available in supermarkets.