Posted at 11:08 AM ET, 06/10/2011

Iceland crowdsources its next constitution


Iceland's parliament debates a bill to hold a referendum over repayment of $5.7 billion demanded by Britain and the Netherlands for depositors' money lost in failed Icelandic banks in January 2010. (Brynjar Gauti - AP)
When your banks and government completely collapse, it might be time to reconsider your constitution, and ensure that this time it’s really “by the people, for the people.”

Iceland is trying to do just that, by crowdsourcing its new constitution to its citizens through social media.

“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the Internet,” Thorvaldur Gylfason, a member of Iceland's constitutional council, told the Guardian.

Iceland's existing constitution was created in 1944, when the country gained independence from Denmark. The document had no input from its people — it simply took the Danish constitution and made a few minor changes, such as replacing “king” with “president.”

This time around, the constitutional council is posting draft clauses on its Web site, which the public can comment on or discuss on the council’s Facebook page. A live stream of the council’s meetings are on both pages as well. The project launched in April.

“The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch,” Gylfason said.

These constitution makers are present on Twitter, they’re posting on interviews YouTube, and their pictures are even posted to Flickr.

Gylfason said the level of discussion has been high. “The public have added much to our debate. Their comments have been quite helpful and they have had a positive effect on the outcome.”

The draft bill is due to be ready at the end of July and may be put to a referendum without any changes imposed by parliament.

The bill would include checks and responsibilities for parliament, and provisions for separation of powers that are intended to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Significant changes in the way ministers of parliament are elected and judges appointed have also been suggested.

By  |  11:08 AM ET, 06/10/2011

 
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