A petition known as Þjóðareign (‘national property’), which asks President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to veto a mackerel quota bill proposed by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, has gained over 47,000 signatures.
This makes the petition the fourth most popular in Icelandic history, behind last year’s demand for a referendum on continuing EU accession talks, the second anti-Icesave petition in 2010, and the 2013 campaign to keep Iceland’s domestic airport in Reykjavík.
Additionally 55,522 signatures were collected in 1974 by a group known as Varið land to show support for the continued stationing of American troops on Icelandic soil. The movement did not have any isolated objective but was largely a response to widespread discontent with continued militarization.
Although the president’s right to veto legislation has been prescribed in the Icelandic constitution since independence, it went unused until 2004, when a controversial law prohibiting the ownership of more than a quarter of a media company by any single individual or entity, was passed by parliament.
After receiving 31,752 signatures demanding he reject the bill, sitting president Ólafur Ragnar exercised the veto power for the first time.
Last month Kjarninn published a thorough account of the history of public petitions in Iceland. Following the success of the media bill, the petition as a political stratagem, gained huge momentum, and has since been used for a variety of purposes over the past decade.
These have ranged from the Save Ingólfstorg and Nasa! campaign in 2013—which aimed to protect a row of old buildings in downtown Reykjavík near Ingólfstorg square, including one that used to house popular nightclub Nasa—to a 2014 call to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel following last summer’s bombing of Gaza, which claimed at least 1,492 civilian Palestinian lives.
The chart below illustrates the most notable petitions of the past decade: