Government of Iceland
Iceland's government operates as a representative democratic republic with a parliamentary system. This framework means that the general public elects politicians to represent their interests in government. In Iceland, politicians belong to multiple political parties. This country is headed by both a president and a prime minister. To ensure separation of powers, the Constitution was written to establish 3 branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The executive branch of government is composed of the president, the prime minister, and the cabinet of ministers.
The President of Iceland is elected to serve a 4-year term. However, this position is largely ceremonial, as the authority associated with it are limited. The president appoints ministers to serve on the cabinet, based on recommendations of political party leaders. Additionally, the president signs bills into law, has veto power, and may submit bills to the legislative branch. If the president is unavailable for whatever reason, 3 people may act in his or her absence: the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, and the president of the Supreme Court.
The prime minister is appointed by the president to act as the head of government. The person in this position is responsible for ensuring that the duties of the ministers are carried out and that legislation and regulations passed by the legislative branch are fulfilled.
The legislative branch consists of Althing, the oldest parliament in the world. It has been in session since 930 AD, with a break in sessions from 1800 to 1845 during the country’s union with Norway. In 1991, Althing became a unicameral legislative body with 63 seats. Prior to this, it practiced with an upper and lower house. Althing representatives are elected to office based on party-list proportional representation. Its members represent 6 constituencies or districts within Iceland and are elected to serve 4-year terms. Currently, the Independence Party holds the majority with 21 seats. This is followed by the Left-Green Movement (10), Pirate Party (10), Progressive Party (8), Reform Party (7), Bright Future (4), and the Social Democratic Alliance (3).
The judicial branch of Iceland consists of the National Court, the Supreme Court, and the lower courts.
The National Court was specifically created in 1905 to oversee cases concerning Cabinet members. It is made up of 15 members: 5 Supreme Court judges; a constitutional law professor; president of a district court; and 8 individuals chosen by members of parliament on a 6-year basis. It has only come together on one occasion, in 2011.
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeals in the country. This court was established in 1919 and first assembled in 1920. The president nominates 9 judges to serve on the Supreme Court. These individuals must be confirmed by the Minister of the Interior. Once in office, judges vote to elect a president and vice president of the Court. The President of the Court is responsible for administering work among the judges and managing the overall activities of the Court.
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