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TEPAV Constitution Experts Seminar Series - 7. Prof. Gylfason: "High-Inflation Countries Need Detailed Constitutions." Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly, stated that the new constitution-making process in Iceland had been initiated with the “pots-and-pans revolution” after the economic crash of 2008.
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24/01/2012 - Viewed 1306 times


ANKARA – On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, a meeting titled “Making a New Constitution: The Case of Iceland” was held at TEPAV in the context of the Constitution Experts Seminar Series. The seventh meeting of the series hosted Thorvaldur Gylfason, Professor of Economics at the University of Iceland and member of the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly. Gylfason suggested that high-inflation countries such as Turkey and Iceland, lacking of discipline and rules, needed detailed constitutions to acquire these.

The meeting started with opening remarks by Associate Professor Levent Gönenç of the TEPAV Institute of Law Studies. Giving brief information about the Constitution Platform Citizens’ Meetings, the secretariat of which is carried out by TEPAV, Gönenç said, “Iceland and Turkey are divergent countries, but we have a lot to learn from each other about how to efficiently and productively make a new constitution.”

Gylfason, who is a member to the Constitutional Assembly that wrote the new constitution draft submitted to the Icelandic Parliament in July 2011, delivered a detailed presentation on the constitution-making process in that country.  He said the collapse of three banks comprising 85% of the banking system had caused an economic crash. This had been followed by a people’s movement called the “pots-and-pans revolution,” which had led to a process that had ended up with the resignation of the standing government.

Current constitution derived from Denmark’s …

Stating that the current constitution, which dated from 1994 when Iceland separated from Denmark, had been “copied” hastily from that of Denmark and had been intended to be provisional, he maintained that after the crash of 2008 the government had no longer been able to resist the demands for a new constitution.  The constitution at that time had allowed the executive branch to assume too much power and the Assembly had not known how to handle the regulations required in the banking and financial sectors with reference to the separation of powers.

Representation of women and the disabled guarded

He said a participatory and a deliberative constitution-making process had been undertaken with an approach that cared for broad public participation and efficiently used the social media. First, the National Assembly, composed of 1000 persons randomly selected with particular attention to the representation of women and the disabled, had been convened. Then, the Constitutional Committee had been appointed to gather information, provide analysis and propose ideas. The Committee had submitted a 700-page report. In the third stage, elections had been held to decide the representatives of a Constitutional Assembly, of which he is a member, with election campaigns. The 25 representatives from various professions such as lawyers, ministers, philosophers, journalists, farmers, poets and handicapped individuals had given a cross-section of society. However, the elections had been declared null and void by the Supreme Court and later the Parliament had appointed the 25 people with the most votes as members of the Constitutional Council.

The Bill has been in the public domain for six months, the process is benefiting from high Internet usage …

Touching upon the facilitating role of high Internet usage in Iceland, which is estimated to be around 95%, Gylfason stated that the public has been discussing the bill for six months via a blog opened for this purpose. Online, 3,600 comments and opinions have been received. Obstacles to the process have been the determining role of the Parliament on the process and the influence of interest groups.

He said, “We are expecting the current Parliament to approve the bill in June 2012.” He stressed that the prominent themes of the new constitution were “equal voting rights everywhere in the country” and “public ownership of natural resources.”

The meeting ended after a question and answer session and comments from the audience.

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