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Cablegate: Parliament Passes Legislation for Referendum On Icesave

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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON IC
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT PASSES LEGISLATION FOR REFERENDUM ON ICESAVE

1. (U) The Icelandic Parliament passed legislation on January 8
outlining the mechanics for holding a national referendum on the
Icesave bill. The referendum, which became necessary when Iceland's
President refused to sign the bill into law, will occur on either
February 27 or March 6. The Minister of Justice will determine the
exact date in coordination with the Electoral Commission.
Ultimately, the date will depend on practical considerations such as
when ballots can be prepared and voter registration lists updated.

2. (U) The legislation passed on January 8 also determined the exact
language that will appear on the national referendum ballot.
Despite a contentious debate on the subject, all 49 MPs who were
present for the vote ended up agreeing on the syntax. After the
vote, Birgitta Jonsdottir, an MP from The Movement, complained that
the referendum language was too stilted and expressed disappointment
that it was not drafted "in a more human way." The question on the
ballot will read as follows:

"Law Number 1/2010 would amend Law Number 96/2009, on giving
authorization to the Minister of Finance, on behalf of the State
Treasury, to guarantee a loan given to the Depositors' and
Investors' Guarantee Fund from the British and the Dutch states to
cover payments to depositors in Landsbanki Islands hf. Althingi
passed Law Number 1/2010, but the President rejected its
confirmation into law. Should Law Number 1/2010 stay in force?"
There will be two options to answer this question on the ballot:
"Yes, it should stay in force" and "No, it should expire."

3. (U) The parliamentary General Affairs Committee emphasized the
need to explain the issue to voters from a neutral standpoint ahead
of the referendum and suggested that the Ministry of Justice hire an
outside firm for this task. Messaging could help the government's
cause since polling data indicates uncertainty among Icelanders over
the Icesave issue. The polling institute Market and Media Research
(MMR) published a poll on January 6 indicating that 58 percent would
vote 'No' to the Icesave bill in a referendum, and 42 percent would
support it. A January 7 poll by Gallup, however, showed a change in
the public's attitudes whereby 53 percent of the nation would vote
in favor of the law, but 41 percent would reject it. On January 9
the Frettabladid newspaper published the results from a third poll,
showng that 60 percent would strike down the bill, and40 percent
would vote in favor of its passing. Plls taken before the
President's decision showedan overwhelming majority of the public
intended t vote against the issue if it went to referendum.
WATSON

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