The Future of Democracy from the Eyes of an Organizer

The Future of Democracy from the Eyes of an Organizer

While “Future of Democracy“, a 3day international event, reaches its end in Reykjavik, Pirate Times talked to Katrin Oddsdottir, lawyer and human rights activist, one of the 25 members of the Constitution Council of Iceland and the main organizer of the event, to learn how it all began. Katrin Oddsdottir said that she and Eileen Jerrett, director and also one of the organizers, first talked about the event in February, whilst in Brixton university. They sent several emails to several international scholars interesting in the process of Icelandic Constitution asking for help to write about it to the media in their countries and proposed to have a meeting on Iceland in May

Katrin Oddsdottir

Pirate Times: What is the purpose of the meeting?

Katrin Oddsdottir: It’s a three day event! On the first day we’ll talk about what has been done, on the second what is being done, and on the third what can be done, about the future of democracy. The purpose is to discuss how the future of democracy will possibly be and which paths we can take to get out of the current situation (which I think that more and more people in the world realize it is not working). When you have political parties to maintain their driving force behind the whole system, there is the question about direct democracy, you know, that’s what pirates around the world have been fighting for, I think; The involvement of the people in the making of decisions. That’s what we want; The activists and academics to talk to the ordinary citizens of Iceland and to get together to form a coalition for the future.

Pirate Times: Are you optimistic about the future of democracy, not only in Iceland but worldwide?

Katrin Oddsdottir: I think that there’s gonna be a global crash of the current system, which needs to happen. We had a crash in Iceland in 2008, but eight years later we are witnessing a similar upheaval situation as it was before the crash. So when it happens, not if but when, then at least we’ll have an alternative which is the new constitution written in as democratic way as can ever be done in the world! The whole process was open and transparent and everyone could participate through comments and suggestions. We’re hoping that the new constitution can be a guiding light for the future because it introduces a lot of new methods of decision making such as direct democracy, law making by the people. Currently we are facing the destruction of the planet and if the people take decisions more as a whole than the elite then we can make more wise decisions.

Pirate Times: Do you think that after 5 years since its draft the Icelandic Constitution now needs a revision?

Katrin Oddsdottir: No, I don’t think so. The reason is not because it is so great! The reason is that it has methods of changing the constitution in a democratic way. If demanded it will be ok, I mean if it was so outdated we will finally have a way to change it. The current way to change it is almost impossible. It actually needs to call the parliament to approve it, then has to be a democratic elections and the next parliament has to approve it also. I know in Greece there’s a huge problem of how to change constitution and this is an undemocratic barrier because people place too much power in the hands of political parties at the cost of the people. So in the new constitution we have a parliament chance in the constitution and then a national referendum which means that if it is outdated we can at least change it. But we cannot change the current Constitution, so that’s why I answered no to your question.

Pirate Times: Why has the Icelandic parliament still not ratified the Constitution made by the people?

Katrin Oddsdottir: It’s unbelievable that we had a referendum in 2012, when the 2/3 of people said we want the constitution from the basis of the people! The parliament has ignored that decision, something that “this is a coup”, you know! They actually stealing the power from the people but I think that the underlined reason is that every system resists change. That’s the way the systems work, they always maintain themselves. The new constitution has radical steps to changing the system, it’s a development of democracy, in the way to bring power back to the people and increase their power and the credibility. That’s the ultimate reason, why the political parties want to stay and live in the form they are already in! They have promised great things about the elections they never really manage to do what they perform, so that’s the only reason I can find, because I don’t know of any other democratic society where national referendums are ignored. They use the excuse that this is not a binding referendum.

Pirate Times: How does the Icelandic citizens feel about their politicians and the recent governmental crisis?

Katrin Oddsdottir: The trust in politicians in Iceland is very low. I think its 14% or so, which is very low. People don’t trust politicians. What we found out after the Panama documents were leaked, was that a lot of our politicians have connections to offshore companies and so on. And my decision is that there’s a way too much connection between the power of wealth and the power of politics in Iceland. There are people in power that don’t share the normal life of the people they’re ruling, so they have the opportunity to establish offshore companies and do things that normal people don’t want and therefore many of them, shouldn’t have been in power because they don’t represent the public. People in Iceland considered politicians to be corrupted, at least in the way that they think for themselves and their parties before of the people. That’s why I think that the trust in the current system is not going to grow at all. The reasons for the Pirates being so big is that people have gotten sick of the old parties and the way they work and what they stand for and people demand something else, something different. Most of the people who say they will vote for the Pirates are not sure what the Pirates stand for, they just want something else, they want a new way of thinking a new way of working and the Pirates show that they are very honest, they are not hiding in the debates and they try to outline what is wrong with the system and they really fight for the new constitution and those things really matter in Iceland now.

Pirate Times wishes to thank Katrin Oddsdottir for the interview and for organizing The Future of Democracy.

Featured image: Katrin Oddsdottir, Copyright with permission