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Iceland Constitution Index Page Document Table of Contents

    { Official Title: Constitution of the Republic of Iceland }
    { Adopted on: 17 June 1944 }
    { Amended on 30 May 1984, 31 May 1991, 28 June 1995, 24 June 1999 }
    { ICL Document Status: 18 Oct 2010 }

    { Editor's Note:
    The current ICL edition is based on the official translation provided to the public by the Government Offices of Iceland. It has been translated from Icelandic. For the purpose of this edition, paragraph numbers have been added. According to ICL guidelines, the "Althingi" has been renamed "House of Representatives" for the purpose of this edition. Formulations with "shall" have been changed to ICL translation style. }

 

[Chapter] I  []

 
Article 1 []
Iceland is a Republic with a parliamentary government.
 
Article 2  []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] and the President of Iceland jointly exercise legislative power. The President and other governmental authorities referred to in this Constitution and elsewhere in the law exercise executive power. Judges exercise judicial power.
 

[Chapter] II  []

 
Article 3 []
The President of Iceland is elected by the people.
 
Article 4 []
Any person who is at least thirty-five years of age and fulfils the requirements necessary to vote in elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi], with the exception of the residency requirement, is eligible to be elected President.
 
Article 5 []
(1) The President is elected by direct, secret ballot of those who are eligible to vote in elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi]. A presidential candidate must be proposed by not less than 1500 voters and not more than 3000. The candidate, if there is more than one, who receives the most votes is duly elected President. If there is only one candidate, he is duly elected without a vote.
(2) Further provision for the candidature and election of the President are made by law, and it may be provided that a specific number of proposers has to reside in each quarter of the country in proportion to the number of voters there.
 
Article 6 []
The President's term of office begins on the 1st of August and ends on the 31st of July four years later. The election of President takes place in June or July of the year in which a term of office expires.
 
Article 7 []
If the President dies or resigns prior to the expiry of his term of office, a new President is elected for a period ending on the 31st of July of the fourth year from the election.
 
Article 8  []
If the Office of President of the Republic becomes vacant or if the President is unable to perform his duties due to a stay abroad, illness, or other reasons, the Prime Minister, the President of the House of Representatives [Althingi] and the President of the Supreme Court exercise presidential authority. The President of the House of Representatives [Althingi] presides at their meetings. In a divergence of opinion among them, the majority prevails.
 
Article 9 []
(1) The President of the Republic may not be a Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] or accept paid employment in the interest of any public institution or private enterprise.
(2) Disbursements from State funds to the President or those who exercise presidential authority are established by law. These disbursements to the President may not be reduced during his term of office.
 
Article 10 []
On assuming office, the President takes an oath or pledge to uphold the Constitution. Two identical originals are executed of this oath or pledge. One is be kept by the House of Representatives [Althingi] and the other by the National Archives.
 
Article 11 []
(1)The President of the Republic may not be held accountable for executive acts. The same applies to those who exercise presidential authority.
(2) The President may not be prosecuted on a criminal charge except with the consent of the House of Representatives [Althingi].
(3) The President may be removed from office before his term expires if approved by a majority in a plebiscite called pursuant to a resolution adopted by three-fourths of the Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi]. This plebiscite must be held within two months from the date of adoption by the House of Representatives [Althingi] of the resolution. The President must not perform his duties from the time the resolution is adopted by the House of Representatives [Althingi] until the results of the plebiscite are known.
(4) If the resolution by the House of Representatives [Althingi] is not approved in the plebiscite, the House of Representatives [Althingi] must immediately be dissolved and new elections called.
 
Article 12 []
The President of the Republic resides in or near Reykjavik.
 
Article 13 []
(1) The President entrusts his authority to Ministers.
(2) The seat of Government is in Reykjavik.
 
Article 14 []
Ministers are accountable for all executive acts. The accountability of the Ministers is established by law. The House of Representatives [Althingi] may impeach Ministers on account of their official acts. The Court of Impeachment has competence in such cases.
 
Article 15 []
The President appoints Ministers and discharges them. He determines their number and assignments.
 
Article 16 []
(1) The State Council is composed of the President of the Republic and the Ministers and is presided over by the President.
(2) Laws and important government measures shall be submitted to the President in the State Council.
 
Article 17 []
Ministerial meetings are held in order to discuss new legislative proposals and important State matters. Furthermore, ministerial meetings are held if a Minister wishes to raise a matter there. The meetings are presided over by the Minister called upon by the President of the Republic to do so, who is designated Prime Minister.
 
Article 18 []
The Minister who has signed a measure must, as a rule, submit it to the President.
 
Article 19 []
The signature of the President validates a legislative act or government measure when countersigned by a Minister.
 
Article 20 []
(1) The President appoints public officials as provided by law.
(2) No person may hold public office unless he has Icelandic nationality. Each public official must take an oath or pledge to uphold the Constitution.
(3) The President may remove from office any official whom he has appointed.
(4) The President may transfer officials from one office to another provided that their official remuneration is not reduced, and that they have an option between such transfer and retirement with a pension, or old-age benefits, as prescribed by law.
(5) Certain categories of officials, in addition to those mentioned in Article 61, may be exempted by law from this provision.
 
Article 21 []
The President of the Republic concludes treaties with other States. Unless approved by the House of Representatives [Althingi], he may not make such treaties if they entail renouncement of, or servitude on, territory or territorial waters, or if they require changes in the State system.
 
Article 22 []
The President of the Republic must convene the House of Representatives [Althingi] not later than ten weeks after general elections. The President opens regular sessions of the House of Representatives [Althingi] each year.
 
Article 23 []
(1) The President of the Republic may adjourn sessions of the House of Representatives [Althingi] for a limited period of time, but not exceeding two weeks nor more than once a year. The House of Representatives [Althingi] may, however, authorize the President to deviate from this provision.
(2) If sessions of the House of Representatives [Althingi] have been adjourned, the President of the Republic may nevertheless convene the House of Representatives [Althingi] as deemed necessary. Moreover, the President is obliged to do so upon the request of a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 24 []
The President of the Republic may dissolve the House of Representatives [Althingi]. A new election must take place within 45 days from the announcement of the dissolution. The House of Representatives [Althingi] must convene not later than ten weeks after its dissolution. Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi] retain their mandate until Election Day.
 
Article 25 []
The President of the Republic may have bills and draft resolutions submitted to the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 26 []
If the House of Representatives [Althingi] has passed a bill, it is submitted to the President of the Republic for confirmation not later than two weeks after it has been passed. Such confirmation gives it the force of law. If the President rejects a bill, it nevertheless becomes valid but must, as soon as circumstances permit, be submitted to a vote by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote, for approval or rejection. The law becomes void if rejected, but otherwise retains its force.
 
Article 27 []
All laws must be published. The form of publication and the implementation of laws must be in accordance with law.
 
Article 28 []
(1) In case of urgency, the President may issue provisional laws when the House of Representatives [Althingi] is not in session. Such laws must not, however, be contrary to the Constitution. They must always be submitted to the House of Representatives [Althingi] as soon as it convenes.
(2) If the House of Representatives [Althingi] does not approve a provisional law, or if it does not complete its consideration of the law within six weeks after convening, the law becomes void.
(3) A provisional budget may not be issued if the House of Representatives [Althingi] has passed the budget for the fiscal year.
 
Article 29 []
The President may decide that the prosecution for an offense be discontinued if there are strong reasons therefore. The President grants pardon and amnesty. However, he may not absolve a Minister from prosecution or from a punishment imposed by the Court of Impeachment, unless approved by the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 30 []
The President, or other governmental authorities entrusted by the President, grants exemptions from laws in accordance with established practice.
 

[Chapter] III []

 
Article 31 []
(1) The House of Representatives [Althingi] is composed of 63 members elected by the people by secret ballot on the basis of proportional representation for a term of four years.
(2) Electoral districts are no fewer than six and no more than seven in number. Their boundaries are defined by law; however, the National Election Board may define the boundaries of the electoral districts in Reykjavik and its vicinity.
(3) For each respective electoral district, six seats are allocated in accordance with the outcome of elections within that district. The number of parliamentary seats for each electoral district is in other respects defined by law, subject however to the provisions of the fifth paragraph.
(4) Seats other than those allocated to the electoral districts are distributed within each respective electoral district with the purpose of providing individual political parties with representation, reflecting to the fullest possible extent each party's total number of votes. However, only political parties having received at least five per cent of all valid votes cast nation-wide are eligible for such distribution.
(5) If the number of voters on the voting register represented by each parliamentary seat, allocated or distributed, becomes in one electoral district one half of the number represented by each parliamentary seat in another electoral district, the National Election Board revises the number of seats representing each electoral district with the aim of reducing this difference. This is provided for in further detail by law.
(6) Provisions of law relating to election district boundaries and the methods of allocating seats in Parliament can only be amended by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 32 []
Sessions of the House of Representatives [Althingi] are held in one chamber.
 
Article 33 []
(1) All persons who, on the date of an election, are 18 years of age or older and have Icelandic nationality have the right to vote in elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi]. Permanent domicile in Iceland, on the date of an election, is also a requirement for voting, unless exceptions from this rule are stipulated in the law on elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi].
(2) Further provisions regarding elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi] are laid down in the law on elections.
 
Article 34 []
(1) Every national having the right to vote in elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi] and an unblemished reputation is eligible to be elected to the House of Representatives [Althingi].
(2) Supreme Court Judges, however, are not eligible.
 

[Chapter] IV []

 
Article 35 []
(1) The House of Representatives [Althingi] convenes for a regular session every year on the 1st of October or, if the day falls on an official holiday, on the following weekday, and continues in session until the same date the following year, unless the election period of Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi] has elapsed earlier or the House of Representatives [Althingi] has been dissolved.
(2) The opening date of the regular session of the House of Representatives [Althingi] may be changed by law.
 
Article 36 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] is inviolate. No person may disturb its peace or violate its freedom.
 
Article 37 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] normally convenes in Reykjavik, but under special circumstances the President of the Republic may order that the House of Representatives [Althingi] convene at another place in Iceland.
 
Article 38 []
Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi] and Ministers are entitled to introduce bills and draft resolutions.
 
Article 39 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] may appoint committees of its Members in order to investigate important matters of public interest. The House of Representatives [Althingi] may grant authority to such committees to request reports, oral or written, from officials as well as from individuals.
 
Article 40 []
No tax may be imposed, altered or abolished except by law. Nor may loans, indebting the State, be taken or any real estate belonging to the State or the use thereof sold or in any other way disposed of, except by authority in law.
 
Article 41 []
No disbursement may be made unless authorized in the budget or the supplementary budget.
 
Article 42 []
A budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, containing a report on the revenue and expenditure of the State, is submitted to each regular session of the House of Representatives [Althingi] upon it being convened.
 
Article 43 []
The financial accounts of the State, its institutions and administrative bodies, is subject to an audit by, or under the supervision of the House of Representatives [Althingi], as provided by law.
 
Article 44 []
No bill may be passed until it has received three readings in the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 45 []
Regular elections to the House of Representatives [Althingi] must take place not later than at the end of the electoral term. The beginning and end of the electoral term is on the same day of the week in a month, counting from the beginning of the month.
 
Article 46 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] decides whether its Members are legally elected and also whether a Member has lost eligibility for election to the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 47 []
Each new Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] takes a pledge to uphold the Constitution when his election has been approved.
 
Article 48 []
Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi] are bound solely by their conviction and not by any instructions from their constituents.
 
Article 49 []
(1) No Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] may be subjected to custody on remand during a session of the House of Representatives [Althingi] without the consent of the House of Representatives [Althingi], nor may a criminal action be brought against him unless he is caught in the act of committing a crime.
(2) No Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] may be held accountable outside the House of Representatives [Althingi] for statements made by him in the House of Representatives [Althingi], except with the consent of the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 50 []
If a Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] loses eligibility for election to the House of Representatives [Althingi], he forfeits those rights that the election brought him.
 
Article 51 []
Ministers are entitled to a seat in the House of Representatives [Althingi] and, by virtue of their office, have the right to participate in its debates as often as they may desire, but they must observe the rules of procedure. They have the right to vote only if they are at the same time Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi].
 
Article 52 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] elects a President, who presides over its proceedings.
 
Article 53 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] may not take a decision unless a quorum of more than half of its Members are present at the meeting and take part in the voting.
 
Article 54 []
Each Member of the House of Representatives [Althingi] may request, subject to the permission of the House of Representatives [Althingi], information from a Minister or an answer regarding a public matter, by tabling a question or requesting a report.
 
Article 55 []
The House of Representatives [Althingi] may not admit for consideration any matter unless introduced by one of its Members or a Minister.
 
Article 56 []
Should the House of Representatives [Althingi] not find cause to take a decision on a given matter it can refer it to a Minister.
 
Article 57 []
Meetings of the House of Representatives [Althingi] are held in public. Nevertheless, the President of the House of Representatives [Althingi], or the quorum stipulated by the rules of procedure, may request that all those not Members of the House of Representatives [Althingi] be excluded. The meeting then decides whether the matter shall be debated in a public or a closed session.
 
Article 58 []
The rules of procedure of the House of Representatives [Althingi] are determined by law.
 

[Chapter] V  []

 
Article 59 []
The organization of the judiciary can only be established by law.
 
Article 60 []
Judges settle all disputes regarding the competence of the authorities. No one seeking a ruling thereon can, however, temporarily evade obeying an order from the authorities by submitting the matter for a judicial decision.
 
Article 61 []
In the performance of their official duties, judges must be guided solely by the law. Those judges who do not also have administrative functions cannot be discharged from office except by a judicial decision, nor may they be transferred to another office against their will, except in the event of re-organization of the judiciary. However, a judge who has reached the age of 65 may be released from office, but Judges of the Supreme Court shall not lose any of their salary.
 

[Chapter] VI []

 
Article 62 []
(1) The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the State Church in Iceland and, as such, it is supported and protected by the State.
(2) This may be amended by law.
 
Article 63 []
All persons have the right to form religious associations and to practice their religion in conformity with their individual convictions. Nothing may however be preached or practised which is prejudicial to good morals or public order.
 
Article 64  []
(1) No one may lose any of his civil or national rights on account of his religion, nor may anyone refuse to perform any generally applicable civil duty on religious grounds.
(2) Everyone is free to remain outside religious associations. No one is obliged to pay any personal dues to any religious association of which he is not a member.
(3) A person who is not a member of any religious association must pay to the University of Iceland the dues that he would have had to pay to such an association, if he had been a member. This may be amended by law.
 

[Chapter] VII []

 
Article 65 []
(1) Everyone is equal before the law and enjoys human rights irrespective of sex, religion, opinion, national origin, race, colour, property, birth or other status.
(2) Men and women enjoy equal rights in all respects.
 
Article 66 []
(1) No one may be deprived of Icelandic citizenship. Loss of citizenship may, however, be provided for by law, in the event a person accepts citizenship in another State. An alien can only be granted Icelandic citizenship according to law.
(2) An Icelandic citizen cannot be barred from entering Iceland nor expelled there from. The rights of aliens to enter and reside in Iceland, and the reasons for which they may be expelled, are laid down by law.
(3) No one may be barred from leaving Iceland except by judicial decision. A person may however be prevented from leaving Iceland by lawful arrest.
(4) Every person lawfully residing in Iceland is free to choose his residence and enjoys freedom of travel subject to any limitations laid down by law.
 
Article 67 []
(1) No one may be deprived of his liberty except as permitted by law.
(2) Any person deprived of his liberty is entitled to be informed promptly of the reasons for this measure.
(3) Any person arrested by reason of suspicion of criminal conduct must be brought before a judge without undue delay. If he is not released at once, the judge must, within 24 hours, issue a reasoned decision on whether he is detained on remand. Detention on remand may only be ordered due to a charge subject to heavier sanctions than fines or punitive custody. The right of a person detained on remand to refer the decision on his remand to a superior court is guaranteed by law. A person must never be detained on remand for longer than necessary; if the judge deems that he may be released on bail the amount of bail must be determined by a judicial order.
(4) Any person deprived of his liberty for other reasons is entitled to have the legality of the measure reviewed by a court as soon as possible. If his deprivation of liberty proves to have been unlawful he must be released forthwith.
(5) Any person deprived of his liberty without valid reason has a right to compensation.
 
Article 68 []
(1) No one may be subjected to torture or any other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
(2) No one is required to perform compulsory labor.
 
Article 69 []
(1) No one may be subjected to punishment unless found guilty of conduct that constituted a criminal offence according to the law at the time when it was committed, or is totally analogous to such conduct. The sanctions may not be more severe than the law permitted at the time of commission.
(2) Death penalty may never be stipulated by law.
 
Article 70 []
(1) For the determination of his rights and obligations or in the event of a criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled, following a fair trial and within a reasonable time, to the resolution of an independent and impartial court of law. A hearing by a court of law takes place in public, except if the judge decides otherwise as provided for by law in the interest of morals, public order, the security of the State or the interests of the parties.
(2) Everyone charged with criminal conduct is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
 
Article 71 []
(1) Everyone enjoys freedom from interference with privacy, home, and family life.
(2) Bodily or personal search or a search of a person's premises or possessions may only be conducted in accordance with a judicial decision or a statutory law provision. This also applies to the examination of documents and mail, communications by telephone and other means, and to any other comparable interference with a person's right to privacy.
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of the first paragraph above, freedom from interference with privacy, home and family life may be otherwise limited by statutory provisions if this is urgently necessary for the protection of the rights of others.
 
Article 72 []
(1) The right of private ownership is inviolate. No one may be obliged to surrender his property unless required by public interests. Such a measure must be provided for by law, and full compensation must be paid.
(2) The right of foreign parties to own real property interests or shares in business enterprises in Iceland may be limited by law.
 
Article 73 []
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and belief.
(2) Everyone is free to express his thoughts, but is also liable to answer for them in court. The law may never provide for censorship or other similar limitations to freedom of expression.
(3) Freedom of expression may only be restricted by law in the interests of public order or the security of the State, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights or reputation of others, if such restrictions are deemed necessary and in agreement with democratic traditions.
 
Article 74 []
(1) Associations may be formed without prior permission for any lawful purpose, including political associations and trade unions. An association may not be dissolved by administrative decision. The activities of an association found to be in furtherance of unlawful objectives may however be enjoint, in which case legal action must be brought without undue delay for a judgment dissolving the association.
(2) No one may be obliged to be a member of any association. Membership of an association may however be made obligatory by law if this is necessary in order to enable an association to discharge its functions in the public interest or on account of the rights of others.
(3) People are free to assemble unarmed. Public gatherings may be attended by police. Public gatherings in the open may be banned if it is feared that riots may ensue.
 
Article 75 []
(1) Everyone is free to pursue the occupation of his choosing. This right may however be restricted by law, if such restriction is required with regard to the public interest.
(2) The right of people to negotiate terms of employment and other labour-related matters is regulated by law.
 
Article 76 []
(1) The law guarantees for everyone the necessary assistance in case of sickness, invalidity, infirmity by reason of old age, unemployment and similar circumstances.
(2) The law guarantees for everyone suitable general education and tuition.
(3) For children, the law guarantees the protection and care which is necessary for their well-being.
 
Article 77 []
(1) Matters concerning taxes are regulated by law. The power to decide whether to levy a tax, change a tax or abolish a tax may not be vested in administrative authorities.
(2) No tax may be levied unless the levy was permitted by law at the time when the facts occurred on which the tax liability is based.
 
Article 78 []
The municipalities manage their affairs independently as laid down by law.
The income sources of the municipalities, and the right of the municipalities to decide whether and how to use their sources of income, are regulated by law.
 
Article 79 []
(1) Proposals to amend or supplement this Constitution may be introduced at regular as well as extraordinary sessions of the House of Representatives [Althingi]. If the proposal is adopted, the House of Representatives [Althingi] must immediately be dissolved and a general election held. If the House of Representatives [Althingi] then passes the resolution unchanged, it must be confirmed by the President of the Republic and come into force as constitutional law.
(2) If the House of Representatives [Althingi] passes an amendment to the status of the Church under Article 62, it must be submitted to a vote for approval or rejection by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - April 1st, 2011 / Thanks to F. Herger. / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.