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Grassroots Constitucional Politics in Iceland

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Paper de Paul Blokker (january 2012)

Paper de Paul Blokker (january 2012)

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  • 1. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comGrassroots Constitutional Politics in IcelandPaul BlokkerJanuary 2012 Iceland has recently embarked on an experimental form of constitution-making from below. Iceland is in this a rare – in distinct ways probably unique - example of a popular or citizen-driven constitutionalism. This participatory approach in many ways challenges core assumptions of mainstream, modernist understandings of constitutionalism, such as the idea of constitutionalism as a social phenomenon and practice dominated by legal professionals or that of constitutions as higher laws that are near to impossible to change. At the same time, the Icelandic experience brings to the fore many questions that popular or democratic constitutionalism raises as an alternative understanding and practice of constitutionalism, not least related to the modes and effectiveness of participation, the notion of representation in the constitution-making process, the role of deliberation, as well as the actual, substantive results of participatory constitution-making.Recent debates among experts of constitutionalism have centered for a good part on thetension between the constitution as a higher law, on the one hand, and democracy,politics, and civic participation, on the other. While some argue that there is no tensionbetween constitutions and democracy, since the former provide the necessaryprerogatives for the latter1, many observers see a strong tension between the legalist ideaof higher laws (i.e., laws that are particularly difficult to revise), including the ideas ofentrenched rights and the guardianship of constitutions by means of judicial review, anddemocratic politics inspired by the idea of popular sovereignty.2 The latter would includethe idea of the governed being able to give themselves their own laws. Those emphasizingthe civic-democratic dimensions of constitutions often take a very different view of therole of the constitution in democratic societies than that of a legalistic perception of ahigher law.3 Rather than providing the fundamental parameters for democratic regimes,constitutions are seen as vehicles of public participation and debate, as well as of socialintegration. James Tully, for instance, endorses what he calls “democraticconstitutionalism”, a form of constitutionalism that endorses “the freedom of themembers of an open society to change the constitutional rules of mutual recognition andassociation from time to time as their identities change”.4 An important component indemocratic constitutionalism is an emphasis on the possibility of the members of a1 See, e.g., Dworkin 1995.2 See, e.g., Bellamy 2007.3 I have discussed this debate concisely in Blokker 2011.4 Tully 2001: 5, 6. Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1990463
  • 2. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.compolitical community to themselves change their fundamental rules of association.5 As alsoAllan Hutchinson and Joel I. Colón-Ríos have recently argued: “from a democratiststandpoint, the merit of a constitution is to be found not so much in its longevity and itsforce towards stability, but in its capacity for both democratic participation andconstitutional transformation. It is not only whether people can take part in constitutionaldecision-making, but how easily, how often, and how actively they can do so; there mustbe adequate mechanisms and processes in place to maximize these opportunities”.6Until recently, the importance of the idea of democratic constitutionalism could beobserved almost exclusively in democratizing countries in Latin America and Africa, inwhich in the last two decades or so quite some constitution-making processes havewitnessed innovative forms of inclusive, participatory constitutional politics. Thesesocieties often have had to deal with the legacies of authoritarian pasts and forms of deep(ethnic) divisions. Since 2008, however, what is by many regarded as an advanced andthoroughly consolidated democratic regime, if not one of the most wealthy countries inthe world, has embarked on what in some of its facets might be seen as the most radicalform of democratic constitutionalism “in action”. An enduring series of civic protests hasinvolved a strong critique of not only the political establishment’s handling of theeconomic crisis and its run-up, and forced the government to resign in early 2009. Civicresistance has also called for a revision of the ground rules of the Icelandic democraticcommunity.7 One of the more immediate results of the so-called pots and pansrevolution8 in Iceland has been an original attempt at rewriting the Icelandic constitutionby means of popular constitution-making.Some facets of the current constitution-making process in Iceland can be understood asunique, but at the same time, so I believe, the process highlights significant and moregeneral tensions intrinsic to modern constitutionalism. Such tensions can equally beobserved – even if in different ways - in other so-called advanced (as well as in some new)democratic societies, and thus are of wider significance, beyond the in many ways peculiarcase of the current Icelandic “moral revolution”. Such constitutional frictions might beunderstood as forms of what I call “constitutional anomie”, that is, a distance between5 Another relevant project is that on constituent power of the Italian scholar Antonio Negri. With regard tothe possibility of a constituent power of progressive political forces, he notes: “the third point on the basisof which an alternative left needs to organize its constituent capacity consists in the overcoming of politicalrepresentation as a profession… The expansion of the instruments of direct democracy is fundamental andcan only expand towards the inclusion of the themes of the security of the life in common and the functionsof protection and control of both privacy and social relations. It is clear that also the functions of thejudiciary are to be opened up to direct democracy, removing the illusion that a professional legal apparatuscould have guaranteed independence and farsightedness in the face of economic privilege and socialsuperiority’ (Hardt & Negri 2011; my translation).6 Hutchinson and Colón-Ríos 2011: 18.7 See for a recent description of the protests, Bater 2011.8 See http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=10735. Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1990463
  • 3. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comexisting, institutionalized constitutional orders, on the one hand, and wider societalperceptions, interpretations and tendencies, on the other.9 Constitutional anomie10 can beseen as indicating forms of constitutional failure.11 One form of constitutional anomie thatmanifests itself in the Icelandic case is that of the idea that the constitution is archaic andobsolete, and does not provide the adequate means to regulate democratic society.12 Asecond form is the idea that the current Constitution does not provide adequate moralguidance to the Icelandic community and does not reflect its key values.13 Anotherdimension of constitutional anomie relates to the idea of self-governance and legitimacy,which in the Icelandic case boils down to the view that the current constitution is not ofthe Icelanders’ own making. Yet another – related - dimension of constitutional anomie isthe idea that it should be the people itself that actively gives the political community itsfundamental rules, or at least should have democratic channels to be able to participate inthe formulation of fundamental rules; in this case, the Icelandic people deliberating andformulating the ground rules of the Icelandic democratic community.14 These are some ofthe tensional dimensions that play a role in the current civic constitution-making processin Iceland, which, I believe, are of wider significance for other democratic societies inwhich the role of constitutionalism is being debated.Constitutional Politics in IcelandThe Icelandic Constitution15 has since its adoption in 1944 been understood as a transitorydocument by many, even if this status has never translated into wholesale revision orsubstitution of the document. A parliamentary committee set up for the purpose hasnever been able to gather sufficiently widespread support for changing the 19449 For an early elaboration, see Blokker 2010.10 See http://www.ecprnet.eu/MyECPR/proposals/reykjavik/uploads/papers/3802.pdf.11 See http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9351.pdf.12 This is an aspect that is for instance also discussed in the case of the Netherlands, where some view thelanguage of the 1814 Constitution as out of touch with current times. Also the far-going changes in theBritish constitutional system were to some extent inspired by the idea that the traditional system ofcommon law was out of touch with the challenges of modern times.13 In a kind of negative comparison, it could be argued that moral guidance also plays an important role inthe current Hungarian “constitutional counter-revolution”. See for one recent statement, Scheppele 2011,available at: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/hungarys-constitutional-revolution/.14 There are other examples of “advanced” democracies where this dimension has recently come into play.Some of the inspiration for the constitutional changes in the British case is to be found in the idea ofdemocratic participation, while also in the Netherlands some have argued along these lines: ”In eenvolwaardige parlementaire democratie maakt het volk zelf zijn Grondwet.” [In a fully fledged parliamentarydemocracy, the people makes its own Constitution] (see http://www.nieuwegrondwet.nl/). Also the (failed)European attempt at constitution-making was evidently driven by an idea of public deliberation and civicparticipation. One of the main protagonists of the constitutionalization of Europe, and proponent of the ideaof ‘constitutional patriotism’ in which civic participation plays a fundamental role, Juergen Habermas,currently warns for the dangers of excluding the citizens from a European ‘post-democratic politics’(Habermas 2011, available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/10/jurgen-habermas-europe-post-democratic).15 See http://www.government.is/constitution/. Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1990463
  • 4. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comConstitution.16 The perception of the constitution’s transitory nature results inter aliafrom it having been de facto adopted in an emergency situation (the Second World War)in which only the minimally necessary changes were made to transform Iceland from acountry dependent on the Danish monarchy into an independent republic. Another aspectthat fed into the idea of the constitution’s transitory nature is the fact that it is largelybased on the Danish constitution and thus does not reflect the autonomy of the Icelandicpolitical community. Things have changed radically with the 2008 economic crisis and itsdevastating effects for the Icelandic economy. One admirable consequence of this crisishas been the attempt at political-moral renewal through the reformulation of thefundamental values of the Icelandic constitutional regime. The story of the Icelandicconstitutional “revolution from below” is clearly a unique but at the same time conflictiveprocess, which raises complex questions about constitutional change and innovation. Agood part of the thrust for political and constitutional renewal came from the Icelandicpopulation, that is, from individual dissenting citizens, intellectuals, and civicorganizations.17 One key early activist and initiator of the revolution was HördurTorfason,18 a musician, songwriter, and human rights activist. People of a variety ofbackgrounds, representing various ideas and groups, such as for instance anarchists,brought in different justifications to engage in the “pots and pans revolution”,19 which16 One serious attempt of creating a new draft has been made, but the constitution was never implemented.The fact that the Icelandic Constitution has never been widely revised probably has also to do with thedifficulty of doing so. As Article 79 states: “Proposals to amend or supplement this Constitution may beintroduced at regular as well as extraordinary sessions of Althingi [Icelandic Parliament, pb]. If the proposalis adopted, Althingi shall immediately be dissolved and a general election held. If Althingi then passes theresolution unchanged, it shall be confirmed by the President of the Republic and come into force asconstitutional law”.17 The grassroots movement was perhaps not in all facets a spontaneous popular reaction to the crisis. Itwould in this be worthy to study the variegated composition of the popular protests. As one member of theConstitutional Council, whom I interviewed in August 2011, argued, an important role was played by more‘elitist’ persons, including academics and writers, who clearly had more familiarity with acting in the publicsphere.18 Se, e.g., http://grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/You-Cannot-Put--Rules-On-Love.19 A particularly significant and alarming episode regards an early eruption of protest in December 2008,when some 30 dissenting citizens set out to use their constitutional right to publicly assist at a parliamentarysession in the House of Parliament, with the intent to publicly read a critical declaration, but were stoppedby a policeman and guards. Nine persons were arrested and face heavy charges (from 1 to 16 years ofimprisonment), not least on the basis of being charged with violation of section 100 of the penal code whichstipulates that anyone found guilty of “attacking the sovereignty of Parliament” will be sentenced to aminimum of 1 year imprisonment. In February 2011, the Reykjavik District’s Court ruled that four dissenterswere found guilty of minor charges, and five not guilty (see:http://www.grapevine.is/News/ReadArticle/Reykjavik-Nine-Convictions-For-Some-Acquittal-For-Others).The law case against the “Reykjavik 9” has led to widespread public criticism (see: http://www.rvk9.org/in-english/), expressions of solidarity (see: http://www.rvk9.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Support-the-Reykjavik-Nine.pdf), and a recent documentary highlighting the absurdity of the charges (see:http://send.perspiredbyiceland.com/en).
  • 5. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comconsisted in enduring protests and extensive resistance to the political establishment aswell as critique of the status quo.An early manifestation of civic action was the organization of a National Assembly20 ornational “brainstorming session” by the so-called Anthill movement, a collective ofgrassroots movements, in November 2009. The aim of this event was to discuss the futureand main defining values of Iceland (the slogan of the event read: “National Convention -a date with the future"). Organizers included Gudjón Mar Gudjónsson, a youngentrepreneur with extensive ICT skills, and creator of the Ministry of Ideas, a civicmovement promoting participatory democracy. Of the participants of the NationalAssembly, 1,200 were randomly selected from the Icelandic census, and 300 weredeliberately selected from among political institutions and relevant associations. Thehighly innovative format – small, modified group discussions identifying main themes andcore values, which were then voted on in the plenary - led to the identification of anumber of themes and values that were to designate an Iceland of the future. The ninethemes that were identified as particularly significant for Iceland were: Education,Economy, Equal Rights, Family, Environment, Public Administration, Welfare,Sustainability, and Opportunities. The four core values that were identified were:Integrity, Equal Rights, Justice, and Respect. While these outcomes might seem abstractand general, and contain a highly universalistic flavour (and thus not necessarilyidentifying purely Icelandic ideals), the importance of the event lay probably much morein the deliberative and civic-participatory nature of the session. In other words, one of theunderlying themes was clearly the need for a politics from below - in contrast to elite andinstitutionalized politics - as an answer to the various political failures and forms ofnegligence that were at the basis of the economic crisis of 2008. In this, the event becamean important inspiration for those who favoured the idea of constitution-making as a wayto address the crisis and to provide Iceland with a new and citizen-driven and locallyengendered set of fundamental rules and values.It should be mentioned that the transitory nature of the Icelandic constitution provided,however, not only fertile ground for a grassroots revolution, but it also reignited a politicalproject for constitutional revision, as some distinct political forces had been endorsing aproject of constitutional change for some time. In particular, the new prime minister,Johanna Sigurdardottir (Social Democratic Alliance), who heads the centre-leftgovernment that came to power in April 2009 - after the collapse in January 2009 of theprior, conservative government (headed by the Independent Party) - had been pressingfor constitutional reform for years. The new government’s agenda included the idea ofestablishing a special Constitutional Council which was to revise the Icelandic Constitution.20 See http://www.thjodfundur2009.is/english/.
  • 6. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comA bill to this extent was submitted to parliament, and adopted in June 2010 afterextensive debate.21The Act on the Constitutional Assembly (ACA)22 that was adopted in June 2010 not onlystipulated the election and mandate of a Constitutional Council but also proposed aConstitutional Gathering on constitutional matters, a one-day civic-participatory event tobe held before the elections of the Constitutional Council, and to be prepared by aconstitutional committee of seven members.23 The Act stated that the ‘National Gatheringshall endeavour to call for the principal viewpoints and points of emphasis of the publicconcerning the organization of the country’s government and its constitution; thecommittee shall process the information collected at the National Gathering and deliverto the Constitutional Assembly when it convenes’ (Interim Provision/Act 2010). TheNational Gathering was thus to gather information among citizens regarding the mainthemes and core values for a new constitution. In this, the National Gathering was clearlystrongly inspired by the November 2009 Assembly, which also came through in thecooperation in the Gathering’s organization by members of Anthill. The originality andunprecedented nature of the whole process lies clearly in the explicit emphasis oncitizens’ driven constitutional reform, a form of ‘crowd-sourcing’ in the form of a civicbrain-storming session, and the explicit exclusion of members of political parties toparticipate in either the National Gathering or to stand for elections for the ConstitutionalCouncil. The citizen-driven constitutional revision process is unique in any establisheddemocratic society (other recent innovative, civic examples of constitution-making regardLatin American as well as African countries, but not North-American or European ones).24The constitutional dimension that is clearly played on is the idea of self-governance and aperception of constitutionalism which understands civic participation as a necessity inorder for a constitution to become a vibrant reflection of a political community’s politicalimaginary and self-understanding.21 Main arguments against the undertaking of revising the constitution were its inappropriateness in times ofcrisis and an insistence on the parliament’s prerogatives in constitutional politics, see Thorarensen 2011.22 See http://thjodfundur2010.is/other_files/2010/doc/Act-on-a-Constitutional-Assembly.pdf.23 The chair of the constitutional committee recently gave an informative talk on the constitution-makingexperience, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiO9oNbpN14&feature=relmfu.24 Switzerland is a partial exception in that 50,000 citizens can initiate a revision of the constitution (IDEA2006). Even if the ‘fear of the masses’ with regard to constitution-making processes is now much lessoutspoken than in the immediate post-WWII years (IDEA 2006), and public participation of some form isnow widely endorsed, in particular in the case of democratizing and post-conflict societies, in most casescivic participation takes the form of consultation (the Kenian National Constitutional Conference is oneexample of an inclusive, but not citizen-driven assembly). The Icelandic case has the potential to be unique(depending in a way on what happens with the Draft Constitution produced by the Constitutional Council) inthat the Constituent Assembly is made up of the “people” rather than politicians and/or experts.
  • 7. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comThe Constitutional Gathering25 was held on 6 November 2010, organized amongst othersby Agora,26 a non-profit organization headed by the aforementioned Gudjón MarGudjónsson. 950 randomly selected Icelanders participated in the event, and discussedfundamental values and distinct constitutional categories in 128 roundtables. The mainthemes that resulted from the roundtables were based on “word clouds” whichthemselves reflected those themes mentioned most frequently by individual participants.The outcome was the identification of eight main themes for a new Icelandic constitution(country and nation; morality; human rights; justice, well-being and equality; the nature ofIceland, conservation and utilization; democracy; division of power, responsibility andtransparency, and peace and international cooperation). These themes were then to beone of the bases of the deliberations of the Constitutional Council. This Council waselected on 27 November, when 37 percent of the Icelandic electorate selected up to 25candidates among 522 self-enlisted candidates by means of a proportional STV system.The elections had been advertised by the National Electoral Commission twenty-four daysearlier, while mostly modest campaigns had been held by the candidates (their campaignmoney could not exceed 12.500 Euro). The novelty of these elections clearly lay in theexplicit exclusion of politicians from candidature and the idea of establishing a purelycitizen-based constituent assembly. Article 6 of the ACA on eligibility read “[p]ersons whoqualify to stand for elections to the Althing may stand for election to the ConstitutionalAssembly. However, the President of the Republic of Iceland, members of parliament,their alternates, cabinet ministers and members of the Constitutional Commission and theOrganising Committee are not eligible to stand for the election”. One senses a flavourhere of “anti-political politics” as it emerged for instance in the 1970s and 80s in East-Central Europe. An important aspect of such a view of politics is the idea of the self-empowerment and responsibility of citizens.27 There were, however, major problems withthe elections, in that the turn-out was particularly low (normal national elections see turn-outs of around 85%) and, at least according to some skeptical observers (probablyexaggerating somewhat), procedures had been far from flawless. The latter led tocomplaints to an ad hoc, executive committee of the Supreme Court, which suggested toannul the elections on 25 January 2011. In this very insecure situation for theConstitutional Council, the parliament decided after heated debate to install aConstitutional Council by means of parliamentary appointment. The ACA was in thisrepealed.Clearly, the set of intricate events has weakened the social legitimacy of the ConstitutionalCouncil, starting with the low turn-out and ending with the Council’s political appointmentrather than its popular election. Nevertheless, the Council started its work in April 2011 onthe basis of a wide range of materials, including the conclusions of the National Gathering,25 See http://stjornlagarad.is/english/.26 See http://agora.is/27 See e.g. Falk 2011.
  • 8. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.coma detailed report by the seven-member Constitutional Committee which had also been setup in the ACA, and an extensive electronic database provided by the latter. One couldargue that part of the civic-participatory potential was in part recuperated (and it shouldnot be forgotten that the members of the Council were indeed ordinary citizens or at leastnon-politicians or constitutional lawyers) by means of an exceptionally open andtransparent mode of working. The Council had an active website28 as well as Facebookpage,29 which could be used by citizens to provide comments and suggestions, while draftproposals were posted on line. Citizens could thus closely follow the evolution of thedebate on the constitution. What is more, active usage was being made of the afore-mentioned Facebook, as well as of Twitter, Youtube,30 and Flickr. The whole process hasclearly been very innovative and open, even if the argument that this was an example of“crowd-sourcing”, made by many a foreign journalist,31 appears to be not accurate as thetaking up of citizens’ comments in the final draft seems to have been ultimately fairlylimited and the wider role of the public was mostly consultative rather than trulyparticipative.Moving from the process of constitution-making to the substance of the actual draft,32 itseems fair to say that although there are a number of civic-democratic channels that havebeen included in the constitution, the overall nature of the text – including the civic-participatory dimension - does not differ drastically from many other constitutions inEurope.33 The most conspicuous aspects regard the articles 32-36, which deal with thepreservation of Icelandic cultural heritage and treat the natural resources as commonproperty. It is interesting to observe, in this respect, that the radically participative andgrassroots form of constitution-making has in this case not led to the adoption of aradically participatory form of democracy in constitutional terms. The most radicalproposals in civic-participatory terms can be found in the articles 65 and 66. Article 65gives the possibility to organize a petition by at least 10 % of the electorate to call for areferendum on legislation passed by the parliament.34 Article 66 gives the possibility for 2% of the electorate to submit an item on the parliamentary agenda, while 10% of the28 See http://stjornlagarad.is/english/.29 See https://www.facebook.com/Stjornlagarad.30 See http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stjornlagarad&oq=stjornlagarad&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=s&gs_upl=0l0l0l11162923l0l0l0l0l0l0l0l0ll0l0.31 See, e.g., The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/09/iceland-crowdsourcing-constitution-facebook.32 Available at: http://stjornarskrarfelagid.is/english/constitutional-bill/.33 The Constitutional Council took into account many European constitutions in its deliberations.34 By way of comparison, article 75 of the Italian constitution allows for citizen-initiated referenda: “Ageneral referendum may be held to repeal, in whole or in part, a law or a measure having the force of law,when so requested by five hundred thousand voters or five Regional Councils” (available at:http://www.senato.it/documenti/repository/istituzione/costituzione_inglese.pdf).
  • 9. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comelectorate may submit a legislative bill to the parliament.35 Article 113 dealing withconstitutional revision introduces an obligatory referendum regarding constitutionalamendments. While the civic-participatory thrust of these articles seems clear, at thesame time, the draft constitution introduces a novel legalistic element: an institutionresembling a constitutional court (the Lögrétta) with ex ante powers. This institution canbe asked for an opinion on the constitutionality of legislative bills by the parliament orparliamentary committees. This could be seen – at least in theoretical terms - as in partialtension with the parliamentary democratic form mentioned in article 1 and the civic-participatory dimension of the articles 65 and 66.The draft constitution has been consigned to the Icelandic Parliament in July 2011 and isnow pending. The Constitutional Council responsible for the draft has emphasized that ithas been adopted in full consensus36 within the council and has called for a referendumon the draft. In October, the prime-minister has indeed suggested a public consultation37on the draft constitution, to be held together with the Presidential elections scheduled forJune 2012. On 16 January, also the chairman of the parliamentary constitutional andsupervisory committee,38 which has been examining the draft since the autumn of 2011,has argued that it is not unlikely that the text will be put to a national referendum. TheIcelandic parliament will not debate and vote on the draft before the autumn of 2012. Bethat as it may, the formal adoption procedure would be the one outlined in article 79 ofthe current constitution.What is clear is that – even in the worst-case-scenario in which the draft constitution isultimately dismissed by the Icelandic Parliament39 - the constitution-making process has35 By way of comparison, article 71 in the Italian constitution allows for popular bills: “The people mayinitiate legislation by proposing a bill drawn up in sections and signed by at least fifty-thousand voters”.36 The consensual basis of the draft might enhance its legitimacy, but might also indicate a reason for thelack of a radical democratic dimension of the draft. In other words, a more general problem of deliberationmight have come into play, that is, a “taming” scenario in which radical dissenting views ultimately succumbto the more conservative views of a majority.37 See http://www.rvk9.org/2011/02/16/what-does-the-ruling-entail/http:/www.icenews.is/index.php/2011/10/05/icelandic-pm-wants-public-vote-on-new-constitution/.38 See http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2012/01/16/29504/39 Much depends on the favourable attitude of the governing parties, aided by support of members of theopposition. Also the way in which the draft will ultimately be dealt with is obviously of great importance,that is, the adoption of a largely unrevised text, or, alternatively, the more or less extensive revision of thedraft according to expert opinions and parliamentary considerations. A complete rejection of theconstitutional draft seems not likely, in that a revision of the constitution was a campaign promise of inparticular the Social-Democrats. As one of the members of the Constitutional Council put it in an interviewwith me at the end of August 2011, as long as the current government remains in power, some impact ofthe constitutional project seems likely. This member of the Council also pointed, however, to importantproblems with regard to the legitimacy of the Council (badly harmed by the allegedly flawed elections), and,one might add, the potential frictions resulting from what some see as a lack of cooperation between theCouncil and the parliament.
  • 10. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.combeen innovative and in many ways unprecedented, and will undoubtedly have importantrepercussions for Icelandic democracy. One example of this is the formation of a newpolitical party,40 which includes members of the Civic Movement, and endorses a newconstitution reflecting the draft. But the experiment clearly also entails wider lessonsregarding the role of constitutions, and of citizen participation, in contemporarydemocracies. The whole process of Icelandic grassroots constitution-making has beenoriginal in its civic-participatory nature and in its explicit rejection of formal politicalinterference. While not living up to more radical expectations of civic involvement, theprocess did raise the interest and participation of the wider citizenry (e.g., writtencomments submitted through the new media totaled 3600, while suggestions added up toapproximately 370). And despite the lack of a radical-democratic dimension in the newdraft, the text is clearly an improvement, not least with regard to civic-participatorychannels. The draft addresses a number the issues I have indicated with the notion ofconstitutional anomie: a more up-to-date, clearly and accessible written text; the attemptto reconstitute a dimension of moral guidance to the constitution; the attempt to enhancea substantive participatory dimension in constitutional terms; and finally, in terms of thedraft’s making, the reflection of autonomy and self-governance through an Icelandic,citizen-driven constituent convention.ReferencesBater, R. (2011), ‘Hope from below: composing the commons in Iceland, Opendemocracy.net, available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bater/hope-from-below-composing- commons-in-iceland.Bellamy, R. (2007) Political constitutionalism: a republican defence of the constitutionality of democracy, Cambridge University Press.Blokker, P. (2010), ‘Modern Constitutionalism and Constitutional Anomie in the New EU Member States’, Quaderni del Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale, Università degli Studi di Trento.Blokker, P. (2011), ‘Modern Constitutionalism and the Challenges of Complex Pluralism’, in: G. Delanty and S. Turner (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory, Routledge.Dworkin, R. (1995), Constitutionalism and Democracy, European Journal of Philosophy, 3 (1) 2-11.Falk, B. (2011), ‘Between past and future. Central European dissent in historical perspective’, Eurozine, available at: http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-05-26-falk-en.html.40 See http://grapevine.is/Home/ReadArticle/Broad-Alliance-To-Form.
  • 11. Grassroots available at: Constitutional blokkerpaul. Politics in Iceland wordpress.comHabermas, J. (2011), ‘Europes post-democratic era. The monopolisation of the EU by political elites risks reducing a sense of civic solidarity thats crucial to the European project’, The Guardian, available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/10/jurgen- habermas-europe-post-democratic.Hardt, M. and A. Negri (2011), ‘ La sinistra come potenza costituente’, Micro-Mega, 8/2011.Hutchinson, A.C. and J.I. Colón-Ríos (2011), ‘Democracy and Constitutional Change’, Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper No. 16/2011.IDEA (2006), Participation in Constitution Making, available at: http://www.idea.int/resources/analysis/const_making_particip.cfmScheppele, K.L. (2011), ‘Hungary’s Constitutional Revolution’, New York Times, blog Paul Krugman, available at: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/hungarys-constitutional- revolution/.Thorarensen, B. (2011), ‘Constitutional Reform Process In Iceland’, paper presented at the Oslo- Rome International Workshop on democracy, available at: http://www.uio.no/english/research/interfaculty-research-areas/democracy/news-and- events/events/seminars/2011/papers-roma-2011/Rome-Thorarensen.pdf.Tully, J. (2001) Introduction, in A-G. Gagnon and J. Tully (eds.) Multinational Democracies, Cambridge University Press 1-34.

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