Police Says No Indication Votes Were Tampered With, But Cannot Confirm

Hotel Borgarnes

Staff of Hotel Borgarnes walked in and out of the room where ballots were left unsealed and unsupervised after the initial count following the September 25 parliamentary election, Vísir reports. Votes in the Northwest Constituency were later recounted, ousting five politicians from their seats. West Iceland Police says there are no indications that votes were tampered with, but stated that security camera footage could not confirm that was the case.

The police investigation into the matter revealed that hotel staff entered the room where ballots were stored while election supervision staff was not present. Election staff had left the ballots unsealed and unsupervised between the first and second counts, both breaches of election regulation. Thirteen people have filed legal complaints with Parliament over the handling of votes in the Northwest Constituency.

Security camera footage from the room where ballots were stored shows hotel staff entering the room. The boxes containing the ballots are, however, not visible in the camera footage. Police have stated they believe it unlikely that the ballots were tampered with while election staff were away, but that they have no way of confirming that belief.

Election staff refuse to pay fine

The Chief of Police in West Iceland has issued fines to all members of the constituency’s election supervision committee due to the handling of election documents. The fines range between ISK 100,000 [$775, €667] and ISK 250,000 [$1,938, €1,666]. Vísir reports that at least two of the committee members do not plan to pay the fines. The media outlet’s sources also state that one committee member believes the first, and not the second vote count, should be considered valid.

Icelandic Ministers Condemn Attack on Democracy in United States

Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Iceland’s foremost government officials took to Twitter last night to condemn the attack on the United States Capitol. The building was breached by hundreds of Trump supporters, many of them armed, as the ceremonial counting of electoral votes took place confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Attackers Egged On By Trump, Says Prime Minister

As reports of the attack were published last night, Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir tweeted: “An attack on Capitol Hill is an attack on democracy. We are witnessing disturbing scenes of violence in Washington DC. Liberty, democracy and decency must be respected.”

The Prime Minister later shared her reactions to the event in an interview with RÚV. “We’re talking about an attack on the parliament building and an attack on democracy and I was of course incredibly stunned when I saw the first reports of it,” she stated. “There we are seeing this great institution that is simply about to confirm the results of a democratic election and it is attacked at the urging of the outgoing president.” Katrín added that it was important that representatives returned to work and finished confirming the election, standing their ground in that regard. She called the attackers’ actions “anti-democratic.”

Icelandic President, Ministers Address Attack

Katrín was not alone among Icelandic officials to condemn the attack. Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson tweeted last night: “Shocking scenes in #WashingtonDC. Any attacks on #democratic institutions and undermining of rule of law should be condemned. Outcome of democratic elections must be respected.” Around the same time, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir tweeted: “The events in USA unfolding now are an affront to democracy. @realdonaldtrump must condemn the mob and demand they cease the violent protests and leave the Capitol.” Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir added her words to those of her colleagues, calling it “sad and surreal to watch this attack on democracy.”

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was more subtle in his discussion of the events. Guðni tweeted this morning: “As Congress confirms election of @JoeBiden, I reiterate my congratulations to the next President of the United States, legally elected by the people. 1000 year old wisdom from Althing, world’s oldest nationwide parliament, still true: If we tear the law apart we tear peace apart.”


In Focus: Where is Iceland’s Updated Constitution?

Between 2010 and 2012, Iceland “crowdsourced” a new constitution which was handed over to Parliament. A national referendum followed, where a majority voted for the document to be used as a foundation for constitutional reform. Yet it was never adopted. Fast forward nearly a decade: a group of activists is fighting for the “new constitution” […]

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International Co-operation on Human Rights in Crisis, Says Icelandic Director of European Institute

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir

Icelander Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir will not continue as Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights after representatives from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkey opposed extending her appointment, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs called the decision an attack on the organisation and a cause for concern. Ingibjörg says the incident shows there is no longer international agreement on basic values within human rights.

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir has served as the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights since 2017. Before that, she enjoyed a long career in Icelandic politics. She was mayor of Reykjavík between 1994-2003, leader of the Social Democratic Alliance from 2005-2009, and Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2007 to 2009.

Troublesome Period for International Affairs

“I regret this decision and it is a cause for concern,” stated Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson. “Of course, this is nothing else than an attack on the organisation. Concerning our representatives, I, together with the vast majority of member states, am of the opinion that [Ingibjörg] has carried out her work with honesty and professionalism and in accordance with her mandate.”

Guðlaugur stated it was troubling that so few countries could upset the institution’s work in such a major way. “They are very few countries that have acted in this way. But it’s enough, because there has to be consensus on these matters. We are of course seeing now that these are troublesome times in international affairs and this is perhaps a manifestation of that.”

Reflection of Crisis Among International Organisations

“This did not come as a complete surprise to me,” Ingibjörg told RÚV when interviewed about her departure from the position. “I think it reflects the current crisis international organisations are in and the current shortage of truth. When the OSCE was founded in the early 1990s, everyone was very optimistic and there was agreement on certain basic principles in democracy and human rights issues. That’s not the case anymore. And this is a manifestation of that. And a manifestation of the fact that those who want to advance slowest in these areas, they have gotten the upper hand.”

One point of contention between Ingibjörg and Turkey’s representatives is their opposition to allowing certain NGOs to attend OSCE meetings. The representatives have gone so far as to call the NGOs terrorist organisations. “I cannot, on my own initiative, designate any organisation or call it a terrorist organisation just like that, that isn’t on any such lists. And there is no support for it either from other OSCE member states,” Ingibjörg stated.

Ordinary Citizens to be Invited to Address Parliament

Pirate Party MPs have proposed a bill suggesting that every month ten citizens be allowed to address parliament about current events, RÚV reports. Each address would not take more than two minutes and the speakers would be randomly chosen from the voting registry.

In a report accompanying the bill, it’s stated that in the Nordic countries, there’s no precedent for voters speaking at parliament and that Icelandic laws don’t allow for it either. Suggestions have been made about how to increase the influence of ordinary citizens over the operations of parliament. The Constitutional Council had suggested that voters could suggest items of business for parliamentary discussion. This bill does not propose that voters can suggest items of business, only that they can address the parliamentary gathering.

There’s precedent for other people than members of parliament, ministers, or the President to address parliament, such as the address by Pia Kjærsgaard, president of the Danish parliament, at the celebratory gathering of parliament at Þingvellir this summer. Her address was contested in the media due to her controversial political opinions.

Björn Leví Gunnarsson, Pirate party MP, told RÚV that the goal is to bring Parliament closer to the people and vice versa – it is democratic to allow voters to address parliament.