An agreement was reached at Iceland’s Althingi parliament last night to remove the government’s controversial bill on changes to the constitution from the program so no changes will be made until after the elections on April 25.
Inside Iceland’s Althingi parliament. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
Last night it became clear that the Independence Party—the only party that was opposed to the proposed changes—were prepared to prevent the bill from being passed with filibuster until the election date, the bill’s presenters saw no other options than to withdraw it, Fréttabladid reports.
Eiríkur Tómasson, law professor at Reykjavík University, said this conclusion shows that the Althingi parliament is incapable of changing the constitution. “Our administration is flawed and this is a rather tragic conclusion.”
The proposed changes included provisions on Iceland’s natural resources going into public ownership, the public being able to demand referendums and the public being able to participate in a constitutional parliament to further change the constitution.
“We have won a complete victory,” said Arnbjörg Sveinsdóttir, party group chairperson for the Independence Party. “The matter was submitted in disagreement with us and approved by the committee in disagreement with us, so this is a good solution.”
Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir said this conclusion confirms that the Independence Party is protecting private interests but not the interests of the general public. “It is a horrid monument of the Independence Party’s 18-year career in power.
Sigurdardóttir said she believes that the Independents never wanted to reach an agreement on the constitutional bill and that they hadn’t been honest in their relations with other parties, despite continuously dismissing such accusations.
Lúdvík Bergvinsson, party group chairman of the Social Democrats and chairman of a special committee on the constitution, said it had been impossible to continue with the parliamentary session.
“With filibuster the Independence Party managed to prevent democratic improvements and easier access to the European Union,” Bergvinsson said.
Without the provision on the referendum being added to the constitution, Iceland cannot become a member of the EU for the next four years, unless parliament is dissolved and new parliamentary elections are held. The same applies to the constitutional parliament.
The party group chairpersons for the Progressive Party and the Left-Greens, Siv Fridleifsdóttir and Jón Bjarnason, agree with Bergvinsson.
“The Independence Party’s fear of referendums is bizarre. The party seems to feel extremely threatened by the nation and that probably says something about its conscience,” commented Bjarnason.
Fridleifsdóttir believes this conclusion is disgraceful for the Independence Party but does not consider it damaging for her own party although its wishes had been dismissed with the constitutional bill. “It strengthens us because the nation knows where we stand.”
Last night it was agreed to wrap up some remaining matters. Among bills that are planned to be passed today is the ministry of industry’s bill on an investment agreement in relation to the aluminum smelter in Helguvík and a bill that prohibits the purchase of prostitution.
Other matters will be postponed, such as a parliamentary resolution on an Icelandic provision in a new climate agreement and laws on an asset administration company, which was meant to take over the operations of socially important companies that suffer extensive financial difficulties.
Today’s parliamentary session began at 10:30 am and is expected to finish in the afternoon. There are only eight days until the elections and Iceland’s parliament has never before still been in session so close to the election date.
According to Morgunbladid, it remains unclear how long the parliament will continue in session.
Click here to read more about the controversial constitutional bill.