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Iceland's Supreme Court Nullifies Constitutional Convention Election

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The results of the recent Icelandic elections to determine the members of the Constitutional Convention schedule to open next month were nullified today by the Icelandic Supreme Court. The election drew 522 candidates for 25 slots, and the resultant logistical nightmare ruled to have violated Icelandic election law.

The voters' right to privacy was violated, it said, because the ballots were numbered (presumably to ensure that each voter got only one ballot). This theoretically could have permitted an election official to identify which voter cast which ballot, though there was no evidence that this in fact happened. The court also found that the open election booths and election boxes did not adequately shield the voters' choices, though again there was no evidence that this actually happened.

The Court also found significant faults with the election's implementations. For example, a special candidates' representative was not appointed, and the counting of ballots did not take place "before open doors," as is required by law.

Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said she was disappointed with the ruling. "We now face having to make decisions about the next steps. They can be a few, and Alþingi will consider what steps to take in this position," Sigurðardóttir said in a statement. She said one of those would be to cancel the Convention, but "I don't think that's an option at all."

It would, of course, be possible to hold another election, but the first election was heavily criticized as not being a good use of public funds and energy. It would also be possible to simply have the Parliament elect 25 constitutional representatives -- possibly those who were elected -- if it is considered that their democratic mandate was sufficient.

Sigurðardóttir said that the Prime Ministry Committee, the Ministry of the Interior, and the National Election Committee would review the situation, since the preparation of the Convention was under their purview to begin with. She said all possible solutions would be considered in order to hold the convention. "The Constituional Convention will not be taken away from the nation"

The Supreme Court's decision was received with great satisfaction by members of the conservative Independence Party (IP), who had voted against the special law authorizing the Constitutional Convention. They called it an expensive experiment that failed.

"Why was the Constitutional Convention implemented? Wasn't it because Alþingi has for decades given up on trying to change the Constitution, with the Independence Party at the forefront? The conservatives are terrified of the Constitutional Convention," Prime Minister Sigurðardóttir said, adding that Conservatives feared that the Convention will constitutionally guarantee national ownership of the country's natural resources, a subject that has been at the forefront of the national debate due to suspicious energy deals with foreign investors.

Robert Marshall, chairman of the parliament's Supreme Committee said that canceling the Convention, which was to begin next month, was out of the question. In his view, two options were available: for Alþingi to confirm the election and the candidates that were selected, or to repeat the elections.