Iceland’s Parliament was adjourned on Saturday and is not expected to convene again until after the upcoming election on September 25. Two of the government’s major bills for this term, one amending the constitution and the other establishing a Highland National Park, have not been passed. Political Science Professor Ólafur Þ. Harðarson says the lack of progress on the bills must be a blow to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
Formed after the 2017 election, Iceland’s current government is the first three-party coalition to sit an entire term in the country’s history. Led by Katrín’s Left-Green Movement, it contains the right-leaning Progressive Party and Independence Party. When the coalition agreement was signed, Katrín stated its aim was to “bridge the gap between different parties and to work with the parties in opposition.” However, political differences appear to have been too great to reach a consensus on constitutional amendments or highland conservation.
Establishing a national park across Iceland’s highland was one of the aims of the government agreement written by the three parties at the beginning of the term. If passed, the bill would have established one of the largest national parks in the world, covering 30% of the country. Parliamentary debates on the bill were heated, with MPs divided over current and future energy development within the park as well as the role and rights of municipalities bordering the proposed park.
The government also failed to pass amendments on the constitution, which it began reviewing in a cross-party committee last fall. After the committee could not reach a consensus on the bill it was passed to the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee, where it was in discussion for over four months. The government has been criticised for the bill by activists who point out that the Icelandic nation drafted and voted for a new constitution between 2010 and 2012, which the government never adopted.
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson expressed disappointment that the bill on constitutional amendments was not passed. While he did not comment on the changes themselves, the President expressed concern “that the parliament hasn’t succeeded in having a substantive debate on proposals to amend the constitution. I find that worrying.”