President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was presented with a petition on Saturday with almost 35,000 signatures protesting a bill passed by parliament last week on changes to the fishing tariff, introduced by the previous government.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Photo copyright Icelandic Photo Agency.
The president is being challenged to veto the bill and refer it to a national referendum, ruv.is reports.
The president has to sign off on all new bills and the one on changes to the fishing tariff will be handed to him in the coming days.
Professor of political science Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson stated the president is between a rock and a hard place. People will be dissatisfied with his decision, regardless whether he signs the bill or not.
Chair of the opposition’s Social Democratic Alliance Árni Páll Árnason maintained the fishing tariff is a matter that should be voted on in a national referendum.
“And I find that we have to follow a general frame of reference. We cannot ignore the masses of people who have requested to vote on this issue,” Árni commented.
Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson of the Independence Party disagrees. “It’s a question of tax collection. So far there has been political solidarity among parties that the amount of taxes and tariffs connected with the budget bill should not be referred to national referendums.”
“The president’s veto right is valid for all bills,” stated Árni. “The president pointed that out himself during the Icesave debate when the viewpoint was upheld that cases regarding interstate treaties or the state’s revenue should not go to national referendums. The president noted that the 26th article of the constitution refers to all bills.”
“It’s a difficult position for the president,” commented Kristján. “Especially given that the legal framework surrounding national referendums is very limited and it is in fact the decision of one man.”