Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 10:18 GMT

Constitution of the Republic of Iceland

Publisher National Legislative Bodies / National Authorities
Author Iceland
Publication Date 17 June 1944
Reference ISL-010
Cite as Constitution of the Republic of Iceland [Iceland],  17 June 1944, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
Comments This is unofficial consolidated translation.The Constitution, Act No. 33 of 17 June 1944, was amended on 30 May 1984, 31 May 1991 and 28 June 1995.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.



Iceland is a Republic with a parliamentary government.


Althingi and the President of Iceland exercise jointly legislative power. The President and other governmental authorities in accordance with this Constitution and other laws exercise executive power. Judges exercise judicial power.



The President of Iceland shall be elected by the people.


Any person who is thirty-five years of age and fulfils the requirements necessary to vote in elections to Althingi, with the exception of the residence requirement, is eligible to be elected President.


The President shall be elected by direct, secret ballot of those who are eligible to vote in elections to Althingi. A presidential candidate shall be proposed by not less than 1500 voters and not more than 3000. The candidate, if there is more than one, who receive the most votes is duly elected President. If there is only one candidate, he is duly elected without a vote.

Further provision shall be made in law for the candidature and election of the President, and it may be provided that a specific number of proposers shall be from each quarter of the country in proportion to the number of the voters there.


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 the President takes place in June or July of the year in which the term ends.


If the President dies or resigns prior to the expiry of his term, a new President shall be elected for a period ending on the 31st of July of the fourth year from the election.


If the Office of President of the Republic becomes vacant or if the President is unable to perform his duties because of a stay abroad, illness, or other reasons, the Prime Minister, the President of Althingi and the President of the Supreme Court shall exercise presidential authority. The President of Althingi shall preside at their meetings. In a divergence of opinion among them, the majority shall prevail.


The President of the Republic may not be a Member of Althingi or accept salaried employment in the interest of any public institution or private enterprise.

Disbursements from state funds to the President or those who exercise presidential authority shall be established by law. These disbursements to the President may not be reduced during his term of office.


On assuming office, the President shall take an oath or pledge to uphold the Constitution. Two identical originals shall be made of this oath or pledge. One is to be kept by Althingi and the other by the National Archives.


The President of the Republic is not responsible for executive acts. The same applies to those who exercise presidential authority.

The President may not be prosecuted on a criminal charge except with the consent of Althingi.

The President may be removed from office before his term expires if approved by a majority vote in a plebiscite called pursuant to a resolution adopted by three-fourths of the Members of Althingi. This plebiscite shall be held within two months from the date of adoption by Althingi of the resolution. The President shall not perform his duties from the time the resolution is adopted by Althingi until the results of the plebiscite are known.

If the resolution by Althingi is not approved in the plebiscite, Althingi shall be immediately dissolved and new elections called.


The President of the Republic shall reside in or near Reykjavík.


The President entrusts his authority to Ministers.

The seat of Government is in Reykjavík.


Ministers are responsible for all executive acts. The responsibility of Ministers is established by law. Althingi may impeach Ministers on account of their official acts. The Court of Impeachment decides such cases.


The President appoints Ministers and discharges them. He determines their number and assignments.


The State Council is composed of the President of the Republic and the Ministers and is presided over by the President.

Laws and important government measures shall be submitted to the President in the State Council.


Ministerial meetings shall be held in order to discuss new legislative proposals and important state matters. Furthermore, ministerial meetings shall be held when one of the Ministers wishes to raise a matter there. The meetings shall be presided over by the Minister called upon by the President of the Republic to do so, who is designated Prime Minister.


The Minister who has signed a measure shall, as a rule, submit it to the President.


The Presidential signature validates a legislative act or government measure when countersigned by a Minister.


The President makes appointments to public offices as provided by law.

No person may hold public office unless he has Icelandic citizenship. Each official shall take an oath or pledge to uphold the Constitution.

The President may remove from office any official whom he has appointed.

The President may transfer officials from one office to another on the condition that their official remuneration is not reduced, and that they have an option between such transfer and retirement with a pension, or old-age allowance, as prescribed by law.

Certain categories of officials, in addition to those mentioned in Article 61, may be exempted by law from this provision.


The President of the Republic concludes treaties with other states. Unless approved by 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.


The President of the Republic shall convene Althingi not later than ten weeks after general elections. The President opens regular sessions of Althingi each year.


The President of the Republic may adjourn sessions of Althingi for a certain period of time, but not for more than two weeks nor more than once a year. Althingi may, however, authorize the President to deviate from this provision.

If sessions of Althingi have been adjourned, the President of the Republic may nevertheless convene Althingi if necessary. The President, moreover, is obliged to do so upon request by a majority of the Members of Althingi.


The President of the Republic may dissolve Althingi. A new election must take place before 45 days have elapsed since the dissolution was announced. Althingi shall convene not later than ten weeks after its dissolution. Members of Althingi shall keep their mandate until election day.


The President of the Republic may have bills and draft resolutions submitted to Althingi.


If Althingi has passed a bill, it shall be 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 shall nevertheless become valid but shall, as soon as circumstances permit, be submitted to a vote by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote, for approval or rejection. If rejected, the law shall become void, but otherwise retain its force.


All laws shall be published. The form of publication and the implementation of laws shall be in accordance with law.


In case of urgency, the President may issue provisional laws when Althingi is not in session. Such laws must not, however, be contrary to the Constitution. They shall always be submitted to Althingi as soon as it convenes.

If Althingi does not approve a provisional law, or if it does not complete its consideration of the law within six weeks after convening, it shall become void.

A provisional budget may not be issued if Althingi has passed the budget for the fiscal year.


The President may decide that the prosecution for an offence be discontinued if there are strong reasons therefor. He 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 Althingi.


The President grants, either himself or through other government authorities, exemptions from laws in accordance with established practice.



Althingi shall be composed of 63 Members elected by the people by secret ballot on the basis of proportional representation for four years in these constituencies:

1.Reykjavík constituency.

Includes Reykjavík.

2.Reykjanes constituency.

Includes: Gullbringusýsla, Grindavíkurkaupstadur, Keflavíkurkaup-stadur, Njardvíkurkaupstadur, Kjósarsýsla, Garodakaupstadur, Hafnar-fjardarkaupstadur, Kópavogskaupstadur and Seltjarnarneskaupstadur.

3.Vesturland constituency.

Includes: Borgarfjardarsýsla, Akraneskaupstadur, Mýrasýsla, Snaefellsnes-and Hnappadalssýsla and Dalasýsla.

4.Vestfjarda constituency.

Includes: Austur-Bardastrandarsýsla, Vestur-Bardastrandarsysla, Vestur-Ísafjardarsýsla, Bolungarvíkurkaupstadur, Ísafjardarkaupstadur, Nordur-Ísafjardarsýsla and Strandasýsla.

5.Nordourland vestra constituency.

Includes: Vestur-Húnavatnssýsla, Austur-Húnavatnessýsla, Skagafjardar-sýsla, Saudárkrókskaupstadur and Siglufjardarkaupstadur.

6.Nordurland eystra constituency.

Includes: Eyjafjardarsýsla, Akureyrarkaupstadur, Dalvíkurkaupstadur, Ólafsfjardarkaupstadur, Sudur-Thingeyjarsýsla, Húsavíkurkaupstadur and Nordur-Thingeyjarsýsla.

7.Austurland constituency.

Includes: Nordur-Múlasýsla, Seydisfjardarkaupstadur, Sudur-Múlasýsla, Eskifjardarkaupstadur, Neskaupsstadur and Austur-Skaftafellssýsla.

8.Sudurland constituency.

Includes: Vestur-Skaftafellsýsla, Vestmannaeyjakaupstadur, Rangár-vallasýsla, Árnessýsla and Selfoss.

Seats in Althingi are divided between constituencies in the following way:

a.54 seats are divided between constituencies as follows:

Reykjavík constituency 14 seats

Reykjanes constituency 8 seats

Vesturland constituency 5 seats

Vestfjarda constituency 5 seats

Nordurland vestra constituency 5 seats

Nordurland eystra constituency 6 seats

Austurland constituency 5 seats

Sudurland constituency 6 seats

b.At least eight seats shall be allocated to constituencies before each election in accordance with provisions in the law on elections.

c.One seat may be allocated to a constituency after each election in accordance with provisions in the law on elections.

In allocating seats according to the election results, it shall be ensured to the extent possible that each political party having gained a seat in Althingi receive the number of Members of Althingi which is as closely as possible in accordance with the total number of votes it has obtained. In doing so, up to one fourth of the seats in each constituency, under subparagraphs a and b of paragraph 2 of this Article, may be allocated taking into account the election results in the country as a whole. The same applies to the allocation of a seat under subparagraph c of paragraph 2.


Sessions of Althingi are held in one chamber.


All persons who are 18 years of age or older when an election is held and have Icelandic citizenship have the right to vote in elections to Althingi. Permanent domicile in Iceland is also a requirement for voting when the election takes place, unless exceptions from this rule are stipulated in the law on elections to Althingi.

Further provisions regarding elections to Althingi shall be laid down in the law on elections.


Every citizen having the right to vote in elections to Althingi and an unblemished reputation is eligible to be elected to Althingi.

Judges of the Supreme Court, however, are not eligible.



Althingi shall convene for a regular session every year on the 1st of October or, if the day is a holiday, on the following weekday, and continue in session until the same date next year, unless the election period of Members of Althingi has elapsed earlier or Althingi has been dissolved.

The opening date of the regular session of Althingi may be changed by law.


Althingi is inviolate. No person may disturb its peace or violate its freedom.


Althingi shall normally convene in Reykjavík, but under special circumstances the President of the Republic may order that Althingi convene at another place in Iceland.


Members of Althingi and Ministers are entitled to introduce bills and draft resolutions.


Althingi may appoint committees of its Members in order to investigate important matters of public interest. Althingi may grant authority to such committees to request reports, oral or written, from officials as well as from individuals.


No tax may be imposed, altered or abolished except by law. Nor may loans, binding upon the state, be raised 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.


No disbursement may be made unless authorized in the budget or the supplementary budget.


A budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, containing a report on the revenue and expenditure of the state, shall be submitted to each regular session of Althingi upon it being convened.


The financial accounts fo the State, its institutions and administrtive bodies, shall be subject to audit by, or under the supervision of, althingi, as provided by law.


No bill may be passed until it has received three readings in Althingi.


Regular elections to Althingi shall 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.


Althingi itself decides whether its Members are legally elected and also whether a Member has lost eligibility for election to Althingi.


Each new Member of Althingi shall take a pledge to uphold the Constitution when his election has been approved.


Members of Althingi are bound solely by their conviction and not by any instructions from their constituents.


No Member of Althingi may be subjected to custody on remand during a session of Althingi without the permission of Althingi, nor may a criminal action be brought against him unless he is caught in the act of committing a crime.

No Member of Althingi may be made responsible outside Althingi for statements made by him in Althingi, except with the permission of Althingi.


If a Member of Althingi loses eligibility for election to Althingi, he forfeits those rights that the election brought him.


Ministers are entitled to [attend] the sittings of 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 Althingi.


Althingi elects a President, who presides over its proceedings.


Althingi may not take a decision unless more than half of its Members are present at the meeting and take part in the voting.


Each Member of Althingi may request, subject to the permission of Althingi, information from a Minister or an answer regarding a public matter, by tabling a question or requesting a report.


Althingi may not admit for consideration any matter unless introduced by one of its Members or a Minister.


Should Althingi not find reason to take some other decision on a given matter it may refer it to a Minister.


Meetings of Althingi shall be held in public. Nevertheless, the President of Althingi, or the quorum stipulated by the rules of procedure, may request that all those not Members of Althingi be excluded. The meeting shall then decide whether the matter shall be debated in a public or a closed session.


The rules of procedure of Althingi shall be determined by law.



The organization of the judiciary can only be established by law.


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.


In the performance of their official duties, judges shall 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 reorganization of the judiciary. A judge who has reached the age of 65 may, however, be released from office, by Judges of the Supreme Court shall not lose any of their salary.



The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the State Church in Iceland and, as such, it shall be supported and protected by the state.

This may be altered by law.


Everyone has the right to form religious groups and manifest his religion according to his convictions. Nothing may, however, be taught or practised which is contrary to good morals or public order.


No one shall stand to lose any of his rights of citizenship or nationality on account of his religious beliefs, nor shall anyone be exempt from general civil duties by reason therof either.

Everyone has the right not to belong to any religious group. No one shall have to pay personal dues to a religious group of which he is not a member.

Anyone who is not member of a religious group shall pay to the University of Iceland the dues he would otherwise have been required to pay to his congregation. This may be altered by law.



All shall be equal before tha law and enjoy human rights without regard to sex, religion, opinion, national origin, race, color, financial status, parentage and other status.

Men and women shall have equal rights in every respect.


No Icelandic national shall be deprived of his citizenship. A person may, however, lawfully be deemed to have forfeited this immunity in the event he has, of his own volition, become citizen of another state.

Icelandic citizenship may only be conferred on aliens by a special Act of Althingi.

No Icelandic national shall be denied entry into the country, or be expelled therefrom. Aliens' right of entry and stay in this country, as well as reasons fro which they may be liable to expulsion, shall be determined by law.

No one may be restrained from leaving the country, except by a court order. A person's departure may, however, be stopped by a lawful arrest.

Everyone lawfully within the country shall have freedom to choose his residence and the right to liberty of movement subject to such restrictions as are determined by law.


No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in accordance with an authorization prescribed by law.

Everyone who is arrested has the right to be nformed promptly of the reasons therfor.

Any person who is arrested on suspicion of a criminal act shall be brought promptly before a judge. In case the person is not released at once the judge shall, within 24 hours, give a reasoned ruling as to whether he shall be remanded in custody. Custody on remand may only be resorted to in cases involving more serious offences than those merely punishable by a fine or punitive detention. Everyone who is remanded in custody shall have the right, guaranteed by law, to have the ruling thereon reviewed by a higher court. No one shall be held in custody longer than necessary whereas, in case the judge decides that a person may be released on bail, his ruling shall contain a specificatin as to the amount.

Everyone who for some reason is deprived of his liberty shall be entitled to have a tribunal decide on the lawfulness of his detention as soon as possible. His immediate release must be ordered if the detention is not lawfu.

Everyone who has been an innocent victim of arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.


No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

No one shall be required to perform compulsory labor.


No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of an act or its true equivalent which did not constitute a criminal act at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.

A law prescribing the death penalty must never be enacted.


In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal. The trial shall be held in public unless otherwise decided by the judge accordin to law, in the interests of morals, public order, national security or the parties concerned.

Everyone charged with a criminal offences shall be presumed innocent until proven guility.


Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life and his home.

No one may be subjected to a bodily examination or search of of his person, nor may his home or belongings be searched except pursuant to a court order or by a special authorization of law. The same applies to the examination of documents, correspondence, telephone calls and other telecommunications, as wellas to any comparable infringement upon a persons's private life.

The provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article notwithstanding, the inviolability of a person's private life, family and home may be challenged by a special authorization of law if necessitated by the rights of others.


The right of ownership shall be inviolable. No one shall be obliged to give up his property unless so required in the public interest. Such transfers must in every case be ordered by law and fully compensated for.

The right of foreign legal persons to own real estate or business shares in this country must be restricted by law.


Evertyone has the right to freedom of opinion and conviction.

Everyone has the right to express his thoughts, but he must take responsibility for them if taken to court. Censorship and other comparable restrictions on the fredom of expression must never be enacted.

The freedom of expression may only be subject to such restrictions as are prescribed by law in the interests of public order, national security, the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, and are necessary and consistent with democratic tradition.


People shall have the right to form associations for any lawful purpose, including political groups and trade unions, without having to seek prior authorization. No association may be dissolved by executive order. The functions of an association may, however, be suspended pro tempore, in which case an action must be brought, without undue delay, for its disbandment.

No one shall be obliged to adhere to an association. Such an obligation may, however, be prescribed by law when necessary to enable an association to fulfil its lawful role in the public interest or because of the rights of others.

People shall have the right to assemble unarmed. The police may be present at public gatherings. Open-air meetings may be banned when it is feared that they may lead to rioting.


Everyone shall be free to pursue the employment of his choice. This freedom may, however, be restricted by law provided that it is in the public interest to do so.

People's right to negotiate their remuneration and other conditions of work and related rights shall be determined by law.


The right to support in the case of sickness, disability, old age, unemployment, extreme poverty and other comparable situations shall be guaranteed by law to all those in need.

The right to general education and suitable training shall by law be guaranteed to all.

Children shall by law be guaranteed the protection and care required for their well being.


Taxation shall be determined by law. The determination as to the imposition, change or abolition of a tax may not be surrendered to the executive.

No tax may be imposed unless authorized by law at the time when the object of the taxation was created.


Local authorities shall govern their own affairs themselves as provided by law.

The revenue sources of local authorities shall be determined by law, as shall their right to decide whether, and in what way, to exploit them.


Proposals to amen or supplement this Constitution may be introduced at regular as well as extraordinary sessions of Althingi. If the proposal is adopted, Althingi shall immediately be dissolved and a general election held. If Althingi then passes the resolution unchanged, it shall be confirmed by the President of the Republic and come into force as constitutional law.

If Althingi passes an amendment to the status of the Church under Article 62, it shall be submitted to a vote for approval or rejection by secret ballot of all those eligible to vote.

Temporary provisions.

Foreign nationals who, prior to the date of application of this constitutional law, have obtained the right to vote and have become eligible to be elected to Althingi or have obtained the right to hold public office, shall retain the said rights. Danish nationals who under Article 75 of the Constitution of 18 March 1920 would have obtained such rights had the law not been amended shall, from the date of entry into force of this constitutional law until six months after negotiations regarding the rights of Danish nationals in Iceland can start, also acquire the said rights and retain them.


Agreed by Althingi 8 March 1944.

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