Today everyone votes. Well, I hope everyone does but I don’t know of course that everyone will. Today is the day that 25 Icelanders out of 522 that put themselves forward are about to become the representatives of the nation.
They will suggest changes to the Icelandic Constitution. All kinds of people have put themselves forward: teachers, farmers, the unemployed, students and even web editors (like our very own Eygló)—shameless plug: Vote Eygló.
I’m actually really proud to live in a country that has the cohones to update its constitution.
Constitutions can and do get outdated to the point where they no longer reflect the nation’s wants and needs and the context which they are written doesn’t apply anymore.
The candidates are talking about changing the Constitution’s rules on equal rights, greater separation of church and state, the powers afforded to the president, guaranteeing greater consensus from society and rearranging the way our parliament is puzzled together.
Other famous historical constitutional assemblies include the US Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, the Assemblée nationale constituante in France 1789-1791 and, of course, the constitutional review in Italy, 1946 (to demote some liberties the fascists had taken).
A little history for you: Constitutions date back as far as ancient Rome, though the Constitution of the Roman Republic (mostly guidelines and principles rather than hardened rules) was far more flexible than the US Constitution and evolved over time.
The Constitutional Assembly in Iceland is direct democracy at work, people, sort of. While it’s true that the candidates voted in will be proposing changes to the constitution, once they’ve decided on them, it will have to be approved by the parliament.
The constitutional review could be a beautiful thing. A variety of people from different backgrounds with different goals and opinions could be voted in, propose changes that reflect the overall desires of the people which are then approved by and put into effect by the parliament.
Or rejected by the parliament and that would be the end of it. But that’s an unlikely scenario (unless the Constitutional Assembly tries to pass something ridiculous like the right to bear arms—no offence America).
If there’s one thing the government has learned from the past few years of economic and political turmoil it’s that Iceland needs this fresh start.
We need it to restore faith in our government where it failed us in the past, we need this opportunity to take the reigns and to know that the way our country is run is with our hands, that we have a say and aren’t passive onlookers of our own country’s destiny.
It’s a lot easier, I think, to do something like this in Iceland than in other countries, what with the nation being pretty small.
But of course we have the ego of a country with a population in the millions—and the heart and spirit of one too.
Iceland is the country equivalent of the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. Delusional but surprisingly productive (and awesome: bias intended).
I’ve been a little worried about this election turning into a popularity contest (it sort of is a little), though to be fair it’s hard for it not to turn into one in such a small place where everyone knows everyone else.
I’m hoping, though, that the outcome today will reflect people from all walks of life and not just the glitterati.
I’m not sure how many people are going to vote today—I voted earlier in the week because someone (I’m looking at you, teach)—scheduled an exam on a Saturday and a national voting day.
Personally I want separation of church and state. That’s my main thing, but most of all I want people to vote and I want this to work because this could be the makeover Icelanders need to believe in themselves again.
Nanna Árnadóttir – [email protected]