New direct democracy website opens in Iceland

A new website called Betra Island (Better Iceland) was formally opened in a tent outside the Icelandic parliament building on Wednesday.

The goal of the website is to directly link voters to their representatives, allow MPs to call for ideas and opinions from the public and to increase overall political consensus, RUV reported.

“This is, in itself, not a huge or complicated thing to open the website, it is just done like this: and with this I declare Better Iceland formally open,” said Gunnar Grimsson, one of the website’s founders, when he opened it officially in the tent on Wednesday.

The website has a sister in the form of the already well-established Better Reykjavik; but the new website is specifically for national issues instead of those about the Icelandic capital city.

The site gives people the chance to affect some of the varied decisions which are taken in the Althingi parliament and to put forward new ideas. Arguments and information on the issues most important to the website’s users will be sent to relevant Althingi committees as documents. The idea has worked well on local matters at City Hall and some twenty issues raised by the Better Reykjavik website have already been willingly taken on by city council committees.

“The fact is that there are some things on there which could be really useful to MPs in their own jobs, quite apart from what comes from the public,” Gunnar Grimsson said when asked whether he thinks MPs will actually bother to use the new website. He believes the double benefits of direct contact with the public and a library of research information will mean that members of Althingi will slowly but surely begin to use the website on a daily basis.

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