Three branches of government, controlled by one

We are taught that there are three branches of government in Iceland.

The legislative one, Althingi where 63 members of parliament lay down the law.

The executive one, a group of ministers, seven – nine in total, made up from members of parliament that belong to the majority and lead by the prime minister.

The judiciary one, with the “lifetime job-security” Supreme Court above the district courts.

This is what I learned in grammar school and what I was told when my 6th grade visited Althingi. It is not an exclusive model, you know it from the US where the reason behind power being split in three ways is so that the government checks upon and balances itself.

Checks and balances. If the executive branch abuses its power, the judicial and legislative branches in the US will try to check and balance, basically punish the wrongdoing. That’s the theory at least.

In Iceland the three branches are a joke.

We have elections to Althingi where we elect 63 people who have made it onto the ballots because they are favorable to the (usually 4-6) parties. Once the election is over, the members of parliament transfer their power to the executive branch and are never to be seen or heard from again, lest they want to destroy their chances of making it to the executive game. The executive branch then elects Supreme Court and district court justices, as well as the Central bank governors who happen to be three for no other explicable reason than just because.

That’s when you have the loyal spin dog guarding the parliament as the Independent’s Party Birgir Armannsson who has never met a bill that he cannot freeze indeterminately in committees. His boss, Geir Haarde is the prime minister and his forerunner and long-time political ally David Oddson is Central Bank governor. David’s has made sure his cousin is on the Supreme Court, as well as one of his oldest friends. David’s son magically won a post on the district court. Add political team-mates to the head position of the Financial Authority and you have no checks and no balances.

Just one branch that pushes the others around as it likes.

An obvious solution would be to hold elections for the executive branch at least. Maybe the Supreme Court as well. But guess who has to execute this change?

Althingi.

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1 Response to “Three branches of government, controlled by one”


  1. 1 Iris November 5, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for writing this blog and spreading the word. The more I learn about the political and banking system here in Iceland, the more disgusted and angry I become… and Im not even Icelandic! All Icelanders should be horrified about what has happened and should demand answers and accountability. The powers that be all seem to protect each other… but I hope, for Iceland’s sake, that the people no longer accept what has happened, that they stand up and demand change.


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