One of the most sparsely populated country in Europe – Iceland became home to the earliest inhabitants in 874 AD. The Norwegians, along with Scandinavians, moved to Iceland, bringing their Gaelic culture along. And only few decades later Althing, an Icelandic Parliament was constituted in 930. Also known as ‘Alþingi‘ in Icelandic language, it became the earliest places where legislature was first exercised.
Situated 28 miles east of Reykjavík, the Iceland capital, today the parliament house, is a classic building of the19th century. However, its foundation was a little different. In the earlier days, the legislature was practiced outdoor in Thingvellir, where all the powerful leaders of the country as well as the free men assembled. It was one of the most significant events in the country, witnessing large crowds of common people ranging from farmers, traders, craftsmen, storytellers to travelers. The Lawspeaker used to be seated on a rocky outcrop, known as Lögberg, to recite the laws in effect or proclaim the procedural law of Althing.
In 1800, the high court however faced a drastic change. Icelanders came under the Danish crown, and the legislature started being practiced in Reykjavík. However, it worked only 45 years because Icelanders started demanding their own legislature. Petitions were signed to set up a new Althing. Hence, a legislature body comprising 26 members sitting in a single chamber, served as a consultative body for the Crown. It was later in the Constitution of 1874, that joint legislative power was granted to Althing, for all the decision making. The Parliament House (referred as Alþingishús), was built in 1881 and a ‘Governor-General’ (landshöfðingi) was now the highest representative of the government in Iceland.
As of today, the unicameral parliament has 63 members and the elections are held every four years. The longest running Parliament, even was the first to democratically elect a woman as head of the state in 1980. Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the first woman President.