Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Big Top Packs the Tents

So today was parliament's last day. As to be expected on the last day of work before vacation begins, people were antsy. Plus the last few days of parliament always sees a flood of activity - for example, they were in the building until about six o' clock this morning, and reconvened at eleven the same morning. I'm guessing they napped in their chairs or something.

Anyway, what did they vote on?

Well, one good thing was a resolution calling for greater freedom of expression, and greater protection for so-called whistleblowers who do investigative journalist articles on the rich and powerful. It's a great idea, and one that will hopefully lay the foundation for media and print laws to come.

Also, they voted to create a constitutional committee. This is a Very Big Deal, because this fall, there's going to be a "citizen's parliament" voted in whose job it will be to write a new constitution. Current MPs, alternate MPs, ministers, and the president are all banned from running for a spot in this. The citizen's parliament will go over the constitution, debate, propose changes and such, and then the constitutional committee will draft a new constitution for the country, which could be ready as soon as 2013.

Seeing your country write up a new constitution is pretty huge. But it's also badly needed in Iceland - we can talk about change for the better until we're blue in the face, but if the basic structure of the political system stays the same, so will virtually everything else.

Not that it was all sunshine and roses today in parliament, oh no. It seems a bill to combine several ministries together in order to save money could be in trouble. Many conservatives and Progressives were against it, yes, but so were also three members of the Leftist-Green Party: Jón Bjarnason, Atli Gíslason and Ásmundur Einar Daðason. As the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Leftist-Greens has 34 of parliament's 63 seats, this bill - despite the fact that it was a part of the government's agreement for working together - is not as solid as it first seemed.

Also, a number of MPs from the Independence Party, the Progressives, and again, Leftist-Green Ásmundur Einar Daðason called for Iceland's application into the European Union to be withdrawn. In fairness to Ásmundur, the original platform of the Leftist-Green Party includes strong opposition to joining the EU, but that changed when they teamed up with the Social Dems. Ásmundur is just old school like that.

Anyway, that's just a bit of what these ladies and gentlemen are up to today. As you can see, it's not an easy job, so if you see one of them outside tomorrow enjoying Independence Day celebrations, offer to buy them a beer or something. They could probably use it.

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