Around 500 people had handed in their candidacy for the upcoming Constitutional Parliament, which will review the Constitution of Iceland, before the deadline expired at noon yesterday, a much higher turnout than expected.
Althingi, the parliamentary building. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The Constitutional Committee’s chair Gudrún Pétursdóttir said on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós that the high number of candidates had taken her by surprise.
“I was speechless at noon when it turned out that there were 500 candidates,” she said, explaining her most optimistic estimate had been between 100 and 200 candidates.
According to ruv.is, so many people handed their electronic documents in at the last minute that the national returning board’s computer system crashed.
Chairman of the national returning board Ástrádur Haraldsson explained they hadn’t been prepared for so many candidates.
He said it is unique in Iceland that voters can choose from such a large group of candidates. Reviewing the candidacies will now take longer than anticipated and the Ministry of Justice’s information booklet about the candidates will be huge.
The national returning board has three days to process the candidacies. Every candidate and his or her supporters (30 to 50 people) must be reviewed to make sure that no one is registered as a supporter for more than one candidate.
The final number of candidates may not be clear until Monday next week.
Pétursdóttir explained on Kastljós that the ballot will not have the names of all candidates as it would make it “as long as a table cloth”.
Each candidate will be assigned a number listed in the Ministry of Justice’s booklet, which will also include a short introduction of each candidate. The booklet will be distributed to every home in the country.
Voters will then have to choose their favorite candidates and prioritize them on a piece of paper, which they can take with them to the polling booth.
The ballot will have 25 lines on which the voters will write the candidates’ numbers in their order of preference. Each voter can choose as many as 25 candidates but doesn’t have to fill all 25 lines.
The candidates will be prioritized according to the order in which voters place them. The ballots will be scanned and processed electronically. To eliminate confusion, no digits that people write similarly, such as 1 and 7, will be used.
At least 25 people and no more than 31 will be voted to the Constitutional Parliament, which convenes in February, 2011 and will last two to four months. The election takes place on November 27, during which the country will be one constituency.
On November 6-7 a National Assembly will be held in relation to the Constitutional Parliament. One thousand members of the public who received invitations at random will gather to discuss the Icelandic Constitution and propose changes to it. The proposals will be taken into account at the Constitutional Parliament.
Once the Constitutional Parliament has completed its draft of a new Constitution, it will be submitted as a bill to the Althingi parliament. According to the current Constitution, it must be approved by two parliaments.
The Constitutional Parliament is a historical event in Iceland. The Constitution, which dates back to 1944 when Iceland obtained independence from Denmark, has never been reviewed in its entirety before, although amendments on human rights, for example, have been made.
Click here to read more about the Constitutional Parliament.