Election explainer: How to become an MP ({{commentsTotal}})

Ever wondered how votes translate to parliamentary seats? Here's what may finally be an understandable explanation of this complex process.

How are the votes apportioned?

It's not simple division, but it's not higher math, either.

Perhaps the best way to understand it is to look at what a given candidate must do to be elected. After all, people vote for candidates, not parties, and are interested in following the candidates' performance.

Candidates can run as individuals or on a party list, in one of 12 election districts. Voters can only vote for candidates in their district.

If a candidate is running as an individual, the only way they can get elected is by getting enough votes (the number of valid votes cast in the district divided by the number of seats in the district). That's a pretty tall order, unless you're an Edgar Savisaar or Andrus Ansip.

If they run on a party list, there are a number of ways to get elected. Like individual candidates, one way to be elected is through sheer popularity - number of votes.

Otherwise, their party has to get 5 percent of the total nationwide vote - the threshold for parliamentary representation.

The party must also get at least one seat in the district where the candidate ran and the candidate has to rank high in terms of vote total. That's a change from the last elections - vote total, not party preference determines the order in which candidates are seated.

If the party didn't do well in the candidate's district, the only hope for our candidate is to get a compensation mandate in the final round of parliament seat distribution. These are divided on the basis of the party's nationwide list - the party still has a say in determining which candidates are at the top. But the candidate does need to get a certain minimum vote total (5% of the votes for a seat in the district) - they can't be totally unknown and have to have some kind of a base.

Also, http://mandaat.vvk.ee provides a handy flowchart (in Estonian).

Editor: K. Rikken