Icelanders vote on Internet-picked referendum issues
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Icelanders began voting Saturday on six constitutional issues including the island’s natural resources and the state church. The topics at hand were chosen through an internet contribution system, in the first vote of its kind.
Icelanders vote Saturday in a consultative referendum on six constitution-related questions posed by a committee that has relied to an unprecedented degree on Internet contributions from the island's people.
The questions to be answered by a simple yes or no include the role of the country's natural resources and of the national church in a proposed draft new constitution. Voters will also be asked whether they want the committee's proposals to form the basis of a draft constitution.
The six questions were chosen by a committee of 25 ordinary citizens elected in 2010 to review the country's constitution: they in turn took to the Internet to solicit the views of their fellow Icelanders.
The draft legislation for a new constitution was submitted to the country's parliament, the Althing, at the end of July 2011. In May this year it was decided to seek the opinion of the island's inhabitants on six issues.
The country's basic law dates back to Iceland's independence from Denmark in 1944 and it has long been accepted that it needs revision.
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.
From April to July 2011 a popularly elected 25-strong group, drawn from different backgrounds, worked on a constitutional project and then put it online so people could contribute their ideas. Hundreds did so.
Beyond questions involving the country's state church and the ownership of natural resources Icelanders will be asked to vote on the country's future democratic system, in particular the use of referendums and the voting system.
"This weekend's election seeks above all to make society better and to eliminate the forces of corruption from it," the tabloid newspaper DY said Friday in an editorial.
"The constitution is everybody's business and should be written in each person's terms."
"The proposals of the constitutional committee .. are major improvements in the form of he country's government," Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir told the Althing Thursday.
"Should we make these proposals the basis of a new constitution? My answer is 'yes'", she said.
The opposition is calling for a 'no' vote. The Independence party, in power for much of the last century thinks the plan needs more detailed examination.
"It's up the elected parliament to take matters in hand," the party's vice-president Olof Nordal told state television.