Chapter III. The Althing
Article 37. Role
The Althing is vested with legislative powers and the budgetary powers of the State and shall oversee the executive branch as further provided in this Constitution and other acts of law.
Article 38. Inviolability
The Althing is inviolate. No person may disturb its peace or violate its freedom.
Article 39. Elections to the Althing
The Althing shall be composed of 63 Members, nationally elected by secret ballot for a term of four years.
The votes of voters everywhere in the country shall have equal weight.
The country may be divided into electoral districts. They shall be eight at the most.
Associations of candidates shall put forward slates, either district slates or national slates or both. Candidates may run simultaneously on a national slate and a single district slate of the same association.
A voter selects individual candidates from slates in his electoral district or from nationwide slates or both. A voter is also permitted instead to mark a single district slate or a single nationwide slate, in which case the voter will be understood to have selected all the candidates on the slate equally. It is permitted to provide by law that the selection should be limited to the district slate or nationwide slate of the same association.
Parliamentary seats shall be allocated to associations of candidates so that the number of Members representing each association is as close in proportion as possible to the total number of votes.
The manner of allocating parliamentary seats to candidates based on their strength of vote shall be provided for by law.
It is permitted to provide by law that a specified number of parliamentary seats should be tied to individual electoral districts, up to a maximum total of 30. The number of voters on the electoral register behind each tied seat shall not be lower than the average for all 63 seats.
The means of promoting as equal a proportion of men and women in the Althing shall be provided for in legislation on elections.
Provisions of law relating to electoral district boundaries, the methods of allocating parliamentary seats and rules on candidature can be amended only by a two-thirds majority of the Althing. Amendments of this kind may not be made when there are less than six months until the next election and their entry into force shall be postponed if an election is called within six months from their confirmation.
Article 40. Electoral terms
Regular elections to the Althing shall take place not later than at the end of the electoral term.
The electoral term is four years.
The beginning and end of the electoral term shall fall on the same day of the week in a month, counting from the beginning of the month.
Article 41. Suffrage
All persons who, on the date of an election to the Althing, are 18 years of age or older and are Icelandic citizens have the right to vote in elections to the Althing. Domicile in Iceland on the date of an election is also a requirement for voting, unless exceptions from this rule are provided for in legislation on elections to the Althing.
Further provisions regarding elections to the Althing shall be laid down in statutory law on elections.
Article 42. Eligibility
Every citizen possessing the right to vote in elections to the Althing and an unblemished reputation is eligible for candidature in elections to the Althing.
Supreme Court judges, however, are not eligible.
The loss of eligibility by a Member of the Althing entails the forfeiture of any rights conferred by election to the Althing. The Member’s alternate shall than take the Member’s seat in the Althing.
Article 43. Validity of elections
The Althing shall elect a national electoral commission to rule on the on the validity of presidential elections, elections to the Althing and national referenda.
The national electoral commission shall issue the election credentials of the President and Members of the Althing and rule whether a Member of the Althing has forfeited his eligibility. The work of the national electoral commission shall be subject to the further provisions of law.
Rulings of the national electoral commission may be referred to the courts of law.
Article 44. Sessions
The Althing shall assemble no later than two weeks after each election to the Althing.
The date of assembly of regular sessions of the Althing and the division of its electoral term into legislative sessions shall be provided for by law.
Article 45. Place of assembly
The Althing shall normally assemble in Reykjavik, but may decide to assemble elsewhere.
Article 46. Inauguration of the Althing
The President of Iceland shall convene the Althing following parliamentary elections and inaugurate the regular session of the Althing each year.
The President shall also convene and inaugurate sessions of the Althing on the recommendation of its Speaker or one third of its Members.
Article 47. Oath
Each new Member of the Althing shall sign an oath to the Constitution when the Member’s election has been confirmed as valid.
Article 48. Independence of Members of the Althing
Members of the Althing are bound only by their conviction and not by any instructions from others.
Article 49. Immunity of Members of the Althing
A Member of the Althing may not be remanded in custody or subjected to criminal proceedings without the consent of the Althing unless caught in the commission of a crime.
A Member of the Althing cannot be held accountable outside the Althing for anything said in the Althing except with the permission of the Althing.
Members of the Althing are permitted to renounce their immunity.
Article 50. Listing of interests and disqualification
A Member of the Althing is prohibited from participating in deliberations on parliamentary business which concerns his special and significant interests, or those of persons with close ties to him. The qualifications of Members of the Althing shall be provided for by law. The disqualification of a Member of the Althing shall not have any effect on the validity of any legislated acts of law.
The obligation of Members of the Althing to disclose information on their financial interests shall be provided for by law.
Article 51. Contributions to candidates and their associations
The activities of political associations and candidates’ finances shall be governed by law in order to keep costs at reasonable levels, ensure transparency and restrict advertisements in election campaigns.
Information on contributions exceeding a specified minimum amount shall be made public as they accrue pursuant to further provisions of law.
Article 52. Speaker of the Althing
The Althing shall elect a Speaker by a two-thirds majority vote at the beginning of each electoral term. If the Speaker does not complete an electoral term, a new Speaker shall be elected in the same manner.
The Speaker shall supervise the work of the Althing. The Speaker is responsible for the general management of the Althing and exercises the supreme authority in its administration. Deputy Speakers work with the Speaker and act as his alternates; together they form the Speakers’ Committee. The election of Deputy Speakers shall be provided for by law.
The Speaker of the Althing shall withdraw from general parliamentary work and shall not have the right to vote. The Speaker’s alternate member shall take a seat in the Althing while the Speaker holds office.
Article 53. Rules of order of the Althing
The rules of order of the Althing shall be established by law.
Article 54. Parliamentary committees
The Althing shall elect permanent committees to deliberate on parliamentary business.
The work of parliamentary committees of the Althing shall be provided for by law.
Article 55. Public meetings
Meetings of the Althing shall be held in public.
A parliamentary committee may decide to open its meeting to the public.
Article 56. Procedure of parliamentary business
Members of the Althing have the right to introduce legislative bills, draft resolutions and other parliamentary business.
Cabinet Ministers may submit to the Althing legislative bills and draft resolutions approved by the Cabinet.
Article 57. Process of legislative bills
Legislative bills submitted by Members of the Althing and the Cabinet shall be subjected to deliberation and process by parliamentary committees before they are debated in the Althing. The same applies to parliamentary business proposed by voters.
An assessment of the impact of legislation shall accompany legislative bills pursuant to further provisions of law.
A legislative bill may not pass until after at least two readings in the Althing.
Legislative bills which have not received final process shall lapse at the end of an electoral term.
Article 58. Process of proposals for parliamentary resolutions and other parliamentary business
Proposals for parliamentary resolutions submitted by the Cabinet shall be subjected to deliberation and process by parliamentary committees prior to discussion in the Althing.
A proposal for a parliamentary resolution may not pass until after at least two readings in the Althing.
Proposals for parliamentary resolutions which have not received final process shall lapse at the end of a parliamentary session.
Proposals for dissolution of the Althing or no confidence shall be debated and brought to a conclusion in a single debate.
In other respects, the process of parliamentary business shall be provided for by law.
Article 59. Quorum
The Althing can only resolve a matter of business if more than half of its Members are present at the meeting and participate in the voting.
Article 60. Confirmation of acts of law
When the Althing has passed a legislative bill, it is signed by the Speaker of the Althing, who submits it within two weeks for confirmation by the President of Iceland, whose signature gives it the status of law.
The President of Iceland can decide within one week from receiving a legislative bill to deny it confirmation. This decision shall be reasoned and notified to the Speaker of the Althing. The legislative bill shall nonetheless acquire the force of law, but the act shall be submitted to a referendum within three months for approval or rejection. A simple majority of votes shall decide whether the act of law remains in force. However, the referendum shall not take place if the Althing repeals the act within five days of its rejection by the President. The conduct of a referendum shall in other respects be provided for by law.
Article 61. Publication of acts of law
Acts of law, administrative orders and international agreements ratified by the State shall be published. Acts of law and administrative orders shall never by applied in an onerous manner until after their publication. The manner of publication and entry into force are subject to statutory law.
Article 62. Lögrétta [Constitutional Court]
The Althing shall elect five Members to a Constitutional Court [the Lögrétta] for a term of five years.
A parliamentary committee, or one fifth of the Members of the Althing, may request an opinion from the Lögrétta whether a legislative bill is constitutional and consistent with the international undertakings of the State. The legislative bill cannot be processed until the opinion of the Lögrétta has been made available.
The work of the Lögrétta shall be provided for by law.
Article 63. Constitutional and Supervisory Committee
The Constitutional and Supervisory Committee of the Althing shall review any actions and decisions of Cabinet Ministers or their administrative actions at its own discretion. The Committee is required to launch such a review at the request of one third of the Members of the Althing.
Article 64. Investigative committees
The Althing can appoint committees for the purpose of investigating important matters of public interest.
Further rules on the role, investigative powers and composition of investigative committees shall be established by law.
Article 65. Referral to the nation
Ten per cent of the electorate can petition for a referendum on legislation passed by the Althing. The petition shall be submitted within three months from the time that the legislation was passed. The legislation shall become void if rejected by the electorate, but shall otherwise remain in force. However, the Althing may decide to repeal the legislation before the referendum takes place.
The referendum shall take place within one year from the time that the request was submitted by voters.
Article 66. Parliamentary business on the initiative of voters
Two per cent of the electorate may submit an item of business in the Althing.
Ten per cent of the electorate may submit a legislative bill in the Althing. The Althing can submit a counterproposal in the form of another legislative bill. If a voters’ bill has not been withdrawn, it shall be submitted to a referendum, as well as the bill of the Althing, if introduced. The Althing can decide that the referendum should be binding.
Voting on a legislative bill at the proposal of voters shall take place within two years from the time that the proposal was delivered to the Althing.
Article 67. Conduct of collections of signatures and referenda
Any matter which is subjected to a referendum at the request or on the initiative of voters pursuant to Articles 65 and 66 shall concern the public interest. A referendum cannot be requested on the basis of these Articles concerning the State Fiscal Budget, the Supplementary Fiscal Budget, legislation enacted for the purpose of implementing undertakings under international law, nor concerning tax matters or citizenship. It shall be ensured that a legislative bill proposed by voters is in compliance with the Constitution. In the event of a dispute as to whether a matter meets the above conditions, the courts of law shall resolve the dispute.
The procedure of referrals or voter initiatives, including the form of the petition and accountability, the length of time for the collection of signatures and their arrangement, the amount of expense permitted for publicising, the procedure for withdrawing the petition on receiving the response of the Althing and the procedure of the polling, shall be governed by law.
Article 68. The fiscal budget bill
A budget bill for the coming fiscal year, containing a report on the revenue and expenditure of the State, as further provided by law, shall be submitted to each regular session of the Althing when it has been convened.
Article 69. Authorisation for disbursements
No disbursement is permitted without authorisation in the Fiscal Budget Act.
However, having obtained the consent of the Budget Committee of the Althing, the Minister of Finance can order a disbursement without such authorisation in order to meet a State payment obligation resulting from unforeseen events, or if the public interest so requires. Authorisation for such disbursement shall be sought in the Supplementary Fiscal Budget Act.
Article 70. Right of the Budget Committee to information
The Budget Committee of the Althing may require State agencies, State undertakings and other parties receiving allocations from the State Treasury to supply information on the use of such funds.
Article 71. Taxes
Tax matters shall be regulated by law. No tax may be imposed, altered or abolished except by law.
The decision whether to levy a tax, alter a tax or abolish a tax may not be delegated to administrative authorities.
No tax may be levied unless authorised by law at the time when the circumstances were in place that determine the tax liability.
Article 72. Assets and liabilities of the State
No loan may be taken or any guarantee undertaken that will bind the State except by law.
Government authorities are not permitted to guarantee the financial obligations of private persons. However, such State guarantee may be provided for by law in the public interest.
Real property belonging to the State may not be sold, nor the right of its use surrendered except by authorisation contained in law. The disposal of other assets of the State shall be subject to law.
Article 73. Dissolution of the Althing
The President of Iceland shall dissolve the Althing pursuant to its own resolution. In such an event a new election shall be called no earlier than six weeks and no later than nine weeks from the time of dissolution. Members of the Althing shall retain their mandate until Election Day.
Article 74. The National Audit Office
The Althing shall elect an Auditor General for a term of five years. The Auditor General shall be independent in his work. The Auditor General shall audit the finances of the State, its agencies and State undertakings under the authority of the Althing as further provided by law.
The audited State accounts for the preceding year, together with the notes of the Auditor General shall be submitted to the Althing for approval along with the State fiscal budget bill.
Article 75. The Ombudsman of the Althing
The Althing shall elect an Ombudsman for a term of five years. The Ombudsman shall be independent in his work. The Ombudsman shall look after the rights of the citizens and scrutinise the administration of the State and municipalities. The Ombudsman shall endeavour to ensure observance of non-discrimination in public administration and compliance with law and good administrative practices.
If a Cabinet Minister or other government authority decides not to observe a specific recommendation of the Ombudsman, the Speaker of the Althing shall be notified of the decision.
The work of the Ombudsman and his role in other respects shall be further provided for by law, including the parliamentary procedure regarding such notification by a Cabinet Minister or other government authority.