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Semi-Presidentialism in Europe$
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Robert Elgie

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198293866

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198293860.001.0001

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(p.86) 5 Iceland
Semi-Presidentialism in Europe

Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson

Oxford University Press

The office of Icelandic president was created in 1944 to take over the functions of the Danish monarch, which were largely ceremonial at that time, and is non‐party political. Although the president is directly elected, political power in Iceland lies with the parliament and a government that is responsible to it. This chapter explores the actual and potential powers of the Icelandic presidency in the light of Duverger's concept of semi‐presidential government, arguing that traditional interpretations of the Icelandic constitution have overlooked the distinctiveness of semi‐presidential government, and noting that the powerlessness of the presidency is less a fact of law than of politics. An attempt is also made to account for why the presidency has developed in the manner of a powerless figurehead rather than as an effective political leader. The three sections of the chapter are: The Presidency and Political Leadership in Iceland—formation of the regime, constitutional powers, parliamentary majorities; The Presidency and the Political Forces—presidentialism in Iceland, the choice of a president; and Conclusion.

Keywords:   constitution, constitutional powers, government, Iceland, parliament, parliamentary majorities, Political Leadership, president, semi‐presidentialism

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