Icelandic president hails democratic process and praises public

At a press conference this afternoon, Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson praised the nation’s ability to rationally discuss complicated issues and vote to follow its conscience.

He said that although the referendum result is not welcomed by many who voted ‘yes’, everybody should respect the democratic way the decision was reached. The President said he hopes yesterday’s referendum will affect the way Iceland’s democracy functions in the future, for the better.

“Although a majority of the electorate has in this referendum said ‘no’ with respect to the conclusions of the egotiations which took place last year, it is necessary to emphasise that the nature of the Icesave issue is such that the British and Dutch authorities and agencies will still, notwithstanding this result, receive immense sums from the estate of Landsbanki. In all liketihood, the amounts paid to them will come to the equivalent of USD 7-9 billion, the first payment taking place within a few months.

“It is therefore not correct to maintain that ttre United Kingdom and the Netherlands will not receive any payments. The Icesave dispute has centred on interest payments and the interpretation of the European Union’s regulations,” President Grimsson said.

The president’s decision to call a referendum was criticised by some who questioned his right to veto a bill passed by 70 percent of MPs in parliament. Grimsson is the first president to ever have used the right to call a referendum — something he has now done three times.

One of the roles of the constitutional council now meeting to change the country’s constitution will be to better define the role of President. President Grimsson, for one, feels that more direct democracy in the future based on presidential vetos of controversial bills would be a good thing. Others argue that the role of president should remain a largely ceremonial one and that the will of the democratically-elected Althingi parliament should be upheld.

A statement from the President can be read here.

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