One of the things I looked at in Iceland is how, following its financial crash meltdown in 2009, it crowdsourced a constitution which starts (depending on the translation) with the preamble
We, the people of Iceland, wish to create a just society where everyone has a seat at the same table.
This piece Pirate Party leader Birgitta Jónsdóttir wrote for the Guardian sets out how the constitution was formed
The foundation for the constitution was created by 1,000 people randomly selected from the national registry. We elected 25 people to put that vision into words. The new constitution is now in the parliament. It will be up to the 99% to call for a national vote on it so that we inside the parliament know exactly what the nation wants and will have to follow suit. If the constitution passes, we will have almost achieved everything we set out to do. Our agenda was written on various open platforms; direct democracy is the high north of our political compass in everything we do.
But now those that wrote the constitution fear for its future. Constitutional Society in Iceland recently sent me a mailout entitled “SOS Constitution”.
Many in Iceland hope Parliament will adopt before the end of its term the new constitution written by the citizens in the aftermath of the financial crisis. However, “politics as usual” game is stopping this project.
While the world looks to Iceland as an example of democratic (r)evolution (power to citizens, now, here) things do not look so bright in Reykjavík.
The crux of the matter is that any change in Iceland’s constitution must be approved by two successive parliaments. As the last day of this parliament before the elections has been and gone with no vote on the constitution, it’s not looking hopeful.
However, on her last day in parliament as Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir (Iceland’s first openly gay and first female PM) made an amendment. Now any change to the constitution can only be made if
- a) two thirds of parliament approve it
- b) 40% of the total electorate approve it in a referendum.What does this mean? Well, passing the constitution is going to be HARD. This has made some say the constitution is “officially dead”.Others are less pessimistic. Accordion-playing politician Guðmundur Steingrímsson, head of new political party Bright Future (Björt framtíð) currently running at third in the polls, told me in an interview at the Althingi that “is has not been destroyed”. He said:It’s really important people don’t think the constitution is dead. Yes it is not going to be easy but there is a way now.Icelanders keep telling me that Iceland is not a utopia, and I agree. But I think there is value in the discussion they are having, and I can’t see anything similar happening in our own (much bigger, significantly messier) democracy.Story to follow in the Guardian’s foreign pages.
Follow Lexy Topping’s new Tumblr for more detail and behind the scenes of her investigations into Iceland’s experimentation with digital democracy