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Alțingi

(Redirected from Althing)

Alțingi (English: Althingi) is the national parliament, or literally the "General Ting", of Iceland. It was founded in 930 at Țingvellir, (literally Plains of the Ting), situated 45 kilometers to the east of the capital, Reykjavík, and this event marked the beginning of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Even after Iceland's union with Norway, the Althing still held its sessions at Țingvellir until 1799, when it was discontinued for a few decades. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present house of the parliament, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, of Icelandic hewn stone.

The constitution of Iceland provides for six electoral constituencies with the possibility of increase to seven. The constituency boundaries are fixed by legislation. Each constituency elects six members. In addition, each party is allocated seats based on its proportion of the overall national vote in order that the number of members in parliament for each political party is more or less in balance with its electoral support at large. A party must have garnered at least five percent of the national vote in order to be eligible for these proportionality seats. Political participation in Iceland is very high, usually over 85% of the electorate casts a ballot.

Unbeknownst to the ancient participants of Alþingi, Þingvellir is located between the rims of the North American and the European continental plates — perhaps a fitting symbol of Iceland's position today as having strong ties to both the Old and the New World.

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Last updated: 11-06-2004 12:02:00