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What’s all this about an overthrown government in Iceland?

Ask IR

What’s all this about an overthrown government in Iceland?

Q: What’s all this about an overthrown government in Iceland?

It’s going around online that the general public peacefully overthrew their government, has jailed the bankers responsible for their economic collapse, and has also rewritten the constitution.

The problem is there are no reputable news sources anywhere. Any news about the legitimacy of this?

Joshua Trottier

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A: As far as the overthrown government goes, it’s old news. After the banking collapse in October 2008, weekly mass demonstrations took place in front of the parliament.

Protestors demanded that the government step down and in early 2009 the Independence Party-Social Democrat coalition was terminated.

An interim coalition of the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement took over in February, 2009, and was reelected in the spring.

That coalition is still at the helm, albeit clinging to a weak majority. The polls indicate that new parties may come to power in the 2013 parliamentary election.

To investigate the banking collapse, the Office of the Special Prosecutor was established. French-Norwegian magistrate Eva Joly was hired as advisor to Special Prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson.

The investigation is still ongoing with only a few cases being filed to court so far, resulting in two convictions to date. None of the major bankers have been jailed.

To rewrite the Constitution of Iceland, a Constitutional Council was established in April 2011, following elections the previous autumn. The council’s 25 members proposed changes to the constitution in a bill submitted to parliament in July 2011.

A heated debate in parliament resulted in the constitutional bill not being forwarded to a national referendum, which was originally supposed to take place at the same time as the presidential election in June 2012.

A new date for the referendum has yet to be confirmed. October 2012 is considered likely but it isn’t out of the question that the referendum will be postponed again.

Whenever it takes place, the referendum will only be advisory. In order for the new constitution to take effect, the parliament must pass the bill.