Heated Parliamentary Debates into the Night Skip to content

Heated Parliamentary Debates into the Night

Heated debates in parliament continue and this time the subject is a national referendum scheduled to take place alongside the presidential election in June.

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Inside Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.

The day Icelanders cast their votes for a new president, voters are also expected to cast their vote in a national referendum concerning articles in the new constitution.

The heated debates of late concern the wording of the articles. The majority of the Constitutional Committee proposes amendments to the scheduled referendum such as rephrasing the questions to be more direct and reducing the number of optional answers available.

Members of Sjálfstæðisflokkur, or the Independence Party, consider the biggest issue to be the fact that the national referendum concerns a document in a working progress.

The Constitutional Committee and the parliament’s Supervisory Committee discussed the majority’s consensus concerning necessary amendments in the articles in question between 6 and 8 pm last night, ruv.is reports.

The majority consensus is to amend the questions posed, to clarify the nature of the questions, as well as to only offer two possible answers, yes or no.

Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Valgerður Bjarnadóttir told ruv.is that all feedback has now been responded to.

The Independence Party has fought a long and hard battle in opposition to the proposal, claiming it is unclear and that no material debate has taken place yet. The party’s official policy is that the proposal is premature.

The party will support the article amendments but will vote against the proposal as a whole.

Birgir Ármannsson, one of the party representatives in the committee, stated that there remains fundamental disagreement on the matter.

Late Tuesday night, an agreement was reached to forward the proposal to the Constitutional Committee for a second revision but when votes were to be cast at 2 am, an insufficient number of parliament members were present.

A series of complaints and criticism concerning the parliament’s methodology in the matter were heard yesterday but at the end of the day the proposal was passed with 42 votes.

The Committee has less than 12 hours to finish the necessary work as the deadline to decide whether Icelanders will vote on articles in the new constitution on the same day they vote in the presidential elections, is midnight this evening, Thursday March 29, ruv.is reports.

Alþingi was still hard at work after 1 am last night debating the new fishing quota bill, but earlier in the day the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, argued in favor of the bill.

It seems unlikely the schedule will hold at this point.

JB

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