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Open Democracy

The Iceland Experiment

The example of Iceland will be used to illustrate how a new constitution can be developed in intensive cooperation with the population – far beyond common models of citizen participation. This at first successful initiative revealed that traditional political structures are generally overwhelmed by such an undertaking, and that the elites will fight against it by all available means. In Iceland the implementation of the new constitution was inhibited by Parliament in the end.

How would it change politics if citizens could be involved in all stages of legislation: agenda setting, formulation of laws, implementation and evaluation? Would the "wisdom of the many" find better solutions than experts and politicians, or are most people neither competent nor interested enough to participate in such a process? Which frameworks, instruments, knowledge and skills would we need for such levels of participation? What can Europe, or Austria, learn from the initiative in Iceland?

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