Iceland's Proposals for an Updated Democracy



From Crisis to Constitution
Centre for Economic Policy Research


The author highlights how, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), which created major economic dislocation for Iceland, citizens led a grass-roots movement to reform Iceland's constitution which had not been updated since 1944 when Iceland separated from Denmark and became a sovereign nation.

He highlights that the push for constitutional reform had been stymied until the GFC due to the two main political parties wanting to preserve the status quo.

However, the GFC and its impacts on Iceland's economy crystallised perceptions that its polity was dominated by business interests and that, as a result, the political system needed to be rebalanced more toward citizen interests.

The author cites polling figures which showed in the wake of the GFC only 11% of Iceland's electorate said they had 'great confidence' in the parliament compared with 37% for the courts, and 80% for the police.

The author outlines the key proposals that were put forward for constitutional reform in 2011. They included:

  • Redrawing electoral boundaries to ensure 'one person, one vote'
  • Boosting the powers and independence of key oversight agencies
  • Ensuring public officials are appointed on merit 
  • Measures to protect Iceland's natural environment and ensure it remains in public ownership


Thumbnail image: Reykjavik. By Didier Jansen/Flickr

Thorvaldur Gylfason

University of Iceland

Published Date
October 11, 2011