Crowdsourcing a Constitution

Crowds and constitutions
Thorvaldur Gylfason
13 October 2011

Iceland’s economic meltdown has led to a change in its constitution. This column, by one of the 25 people elected to draft the new document, documents the journey.

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The constitutional assembly/council (CAC) assembled by the people and parliament to revise Iceland’s constitution decided to do things differently. The CAC decided to invite the people of Iceland to participate in the drafting of a new constitutional bill on the internet, an arrangement that has attracted considerable interest in foreign media.

1 This decision proved advantageous and trouble-free. It was known that ordinary people from all walks of life were interested in – or even passionate about –seeing the constitution revised. Otherwise, 522 people would hardly have run for the 25 seats in the constitutional assembly.

2 The election campaign, if campaign is the right word, was exceptionally civilised, and quite different from parliamentary campaigns. Hardly any advertising took place nor did any significant amounts of money change hands; in fact, most of the candidates did little or nothing to promote their candidacy apart from posting articles or blogs on the internet. The media, including state television and radio, did little to inform the electorate. The political parties did not field candidates, perhaps in part because the main opposition parties were firmly against the project from the start. Interest organisations did not field or openly support any candidates.

Read more.

A history of the process can be found here.

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