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Iceland: Voters back 'crowd-sourced constitution' in referendums

Six non-binding consultative votes have been held on whether to approve measures drafted by 25 ordinary citizens.

Reykjavik, Iceland.
Reykjavik, Iceland.
Image: Nouhailler via Flickr

ICELANDERS HAVE VOTED in favour of proposals for a new basic law, preliminary results showed today, after a referendum on what has been dubbed the world’s first “crowd-sourced constitution”.

Turnout was estimated at less than 50 per cent amid voter fears that the results of the non-binding referendum would be ignored by the small Nordic country’s politicians.

The proposed new basic law for the island nation was drafted by 25 ordinary citizens with the help of hundreds of others who weighed in on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

On Saturday, that committee put six constitution-related questions to voters in a referendum, each to be answered by a simple Yes or No.

Voters were asked whether they want the committee’s proposals to form the basis of a draft constitution.

After ballots in half the constituencies were counted on Sunday, two thirds of voters had answered that question in the affirmative, data from the country’s election committees compiled by public broadcaster RUV showed.

Other questions included topics such as the country’s natural resources and the role of its national church.

Results on Sunday indicated that voters want to keep the country’s national church, and that they think natural resources that aren’t privately owned should be considered public property.

‘Better society’, says Björk’s dad

“Those of us who have hoped for a better society woke up happy this morning,” said Gudmundur Gunnarsson, a member of the constitutional council who is also the father of singer Björk.

Iceland’s population is just over 300,000 but the complexity of the ballots means they are being counted manually and official results are not expected to be announced until late Sunday.

Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008 during the global economic crisis provoked huge social movements and the demand that any new constitution be drawn up by ordinary citizens became irresistible.

Voter turnout is reported to have been around 49 per cent, which is less than the 72.9 per cent who voted last year, when Icelanders for the second time decided whether to approve a deal to compensate Britain and The Netherlands for the 2008 collapse of Icesave bank.

Still, the results were hailed on Sunday by the mayor of Reykjavik, who is also the deputy leader of the Social Democratic Alliance party (Samfylkingin).

“Congratulation Iceland. It seem to me that a cross-section of the people voted yesterday and that the results coincide very well with opinion polls,” Dagur B. Eggertsson said on social networking site Facebook.

The opposition Independence party, which was in power for much of the last century, has said it thinks the plan needs more detailed examination.

Any changes to Iceland’s constitution must be approved twice by parliament, with a general election held between the votes.

The country’s constitution dates back to its independence from Denmark in 1944 and it has long been accepted that it needs revision.

Ireland: Constitutional Convention aims to begin discussions next month

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