Mob rule: Iceland crowdsources its next constitution
It is not the way the scribes of yore would have done it but Iceland is tearing up the rulebook by drawing up its new constitution through crowdsourcing.
As the country recovers from the financial crisis that saw the collapse of its banks and government, it is using social media to get its citizens to share their ideas as to what the new document should contain.
"I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet," said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland's constitutional council.
"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."
Iceland's existing constitution dates back to when it gained independence from Denmark in 1944. It simply took the Danish constitution and made a few minor adjustments, such as substituting the word "president" for "king".
In creating the new document, the council has been posting draft clauses on its website every week since the project launched in April. The public can comment underneath or join a discussion on the council's Facebook page.
The council also has a Twitter account, a YouTube page where interviews with its members are regularly posted, and a Flickr account containing pictures of the 25 members at work, all intended to maximise interaction with citizens.MORE
Iceland reviews constitution with help from online community
A thorough review of the constitution has been on the agenda ever since, but action came only after the crisis in 2008, when Iceland's main commercial banks collapsed within a week, the krona currency plummeted and protests toppled the government.
"To me, it has long been clear that a comprehensive review of the constitution would only be carried out with the direct participation of the Icelandic people," said Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, one of the champions of the constitutional review since taking office in 2009.
She says it is a "distinct possibility" that the draft constitution will be put to the people in a referendum before Iceland's parliament debates final approval.
The 25 members of the constitutional council were elected by popular vote from a field of 522 candidates aged 18 and over. The council is basing its work on a 700-page report prepared by a committee that took into account the findings of 950 randomly selected Icelanders - the National Forum - who met for a day to discuss the division of powers, conservation and protection, foreign relations and more.MORE