According to Morgunbladid, the national convention of the Independence Party, which concluded Sunday, agreed to a resolution on constitutional issues.
The resolution states that it is “inevitable to remove the 26th article [of the Icelandic constitution] concerning the veto right of the president”.
According to the 26th article, the president of Iceland must confirm any legislation within 2 weeks after it has been passed by parliament, Althingi. If the president refuses to confirm a bill that has been passed, then, according to the constitution, “the bill nevertheless takes effect, but as soon as possible there shall be a secret referendum of all franchised citizens to accept or reject the legislation.”
Last year, the current president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, became the first president in Iceland’s history to exercise the president’s veto right when he refused to confirm a government bill that was intended to prevent concentration of ownership in the media sector.
The referendum mandated by the constitution was never carried out; instead, the government put forward another bill annulling the so-called media bill, and president Grímsson confirmed the latter bill annulling the original bill.
The office of the president is the only major office in Iceland which is elected directly by the entire nation. Unlike the parliamentary elections, every citizen’s vote counts equally when the president of the country is elected.
The president’s veto provides one of the few curbs on the power of a government supported by the majority of Althingi to pass laws and select officials. For example, supreme court justices are selected by the minister of justice without independent parliamentary or presidential review.
The constitution states, unambiguously, in article 2 that “the powers of legislation are jointly vested with Althingi and the president of Iceland”.
The constitution also vests the power of selecting ministers with the president (article 15, “The president selects ministers and removes them.”) But in practice, through the short history of the republic the majority of parliament has, with a few exceptions, nominated all ministers from its own ranks.
At the same time as the Independents resolved to further concentrate the power of the majority of Althingi by removing the presidential veto, the national convention of Iceland’s largest and most powerful political party also resolved that “the [c]oncentration and monopolization of the media must be prevented in order to prevent big entities in the marketplace from abusing their position by influencing news reports and the formation of public opinion.”