Background on the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly
- Smári McCarthy is P2P candidate for the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly, here is some background:
" In 1874 Iceland received its first constitution from the Danish king as a result of popular demand for increased home-rule. In 1918 the country became sovereign under the Danish crown, and in 1920 a new constitution to this effect was enacted.
In 1944, after being disconnected with Denmark for over a year, Iceland proclaimed independence. A temporary constitution, mostly based on the constitution of 1920, was accepted, with an article stating that it should be renewed within the year.
Now 66 years have passed without the constitution being reevaluated.
After the financial crash of 2008 the Icelandic people, understanding the need for democratic reform as well as economic reform, started to make demands for a constitutional assembly. After the government collapsed in early 2009 the new government coalition of the Social Democrat Party and the Left-Green Party agreed to organize a constitutional assembly, although for many months this idea looked like it would be buried.
In late October 2009 a national assembly was held in Iceland, where 1500 people were randomly selected from the census to work over the course of a day to create a new set of guiding principles for Iceland. In the aftermath it was decided in parliament that the popular demand for a constitutional assembly was so great that the issue could no longer be ignored.
On June 25th 2010 law 90/2010 was enacted creating a mandate for general elections for a constitutional assembly consisting of 25-31 nonpartisan individuals, based on single transferable vote in addition to a gender quota rule. The elections for this assembly are to be held on November 27th 2010, 10 days from now.
The electorate is the roughly 228000 voters in Iceland, and there are 523 individual candidates running in the election, all as individuals although some have known connections with special interest groups, political parties, and such. These relationships have been mapped by various websites. Various other websites provide filtering mechanisms of various sorts in order to help people weed out the best 25 candidates to vote for.
After the elections the assembly will convene in February 2011 and operate for 2-4 months during that year to draft a new constitution and propose it to parliament, along with suggested adoption mechanisms and protocols. If parliament accepts the new constitution it will be put to a referendum.
There has been an alarming amount of P2P activity in relation to this election. Campaigns are primarily being operated through social networking sites, with a lot of pressure on candidates not to advertise in traditional media. A lot of individuals and organizations have been in direct contact with the various candidates in order to provide their own arbitrary filters, and in general there is a lot of buzz, but also a lot of uncertainty, as the number of candidates and the equidistribution of the attention is the source of great confusion.
To reduce this confusion somewhat and to promote the elections as an important step towards more direct democracy, a broad coalition of candidates from various political leanings has joined forces to raise awareness about the forthcoming elections, operating on amicable grounds, and further, there are discussions about creating a "shadow assembly" using the Shadow Parliament Project's software and organizational mechanisms, in order to facilitate broad discussions amongst the general public during the operation time of the assembly.
In short, it looks like the opportunity for Iceland is great, but there are still a number of hurdles. It will be interesting to see the results, and hopefully this will lead to a great democratic upheaval, promoting and protecting networked societies in the future.