The President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, has decided that the latest Icesave bill will be sent to a public referendum.
The president said his decision is based mostly on the fact that there is public support for a referendum and that it is his constitutional responsibility to uphold the public’s will when it differs from parliament’s. He added that the new Icesave bill is clearly much better than the previous one, but that his public responsibility supersedes personal political opinions. As the public was involved in voting for the last Icesave bill; and because parliament has not changed through a general election since; the public should also be involved in the latest decision. This would not be true if there was a strong consensus that Althingi’s decision should stand — but there is no such public consensus today, he said.
This is now the third time the current president has refused to sign a bill into law — the only Icelandic president ever to have used the power.
Asked whether the public should be involved in decisions relating to national debt and budget; the President said that the Icesave issue is much simpler than Iceland’s European Union accession, but everybody agrees that that will go to a public vote. The public should be trusted and listened to, he reasons.
Grimsson told reporters he had decided to send the bill to a vote because only a small majority of parliamentarians voted against the idea, while a large proportion of voters signed the petition calling for a referendum. He does not believe, on the other hand, that rejecting a bill which passed parliament with a strong majority of 44 against 16 effectively undermines the power of the country’s parliament.
The President’s entire speech can be read in English .