31 MPs submit draft amendment for implementing direct presidential elections (2)

Ballots in the Sept. 24 presidential elections in the electoral college. Sept. 24, 2016. (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)
10/3/2016 5:35 PM
Category: News

Prior to the official roll call which preceded voting in the presidential election on Monday, MP Kadri Simson (Center), presented President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor with a draft amendment to the Constitution, submitted by 31 MPs from the Center Party and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), for the implementation of direct elections for the President of the Republic.

"It is the right time for this change right now — so that the people who are waiting for this can elect the president," Center Party Parliamentary Group Chairman Kadri Simson told ERR. She said that Estonia's coalition parties — Reform Party, Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) — are against such a change and would prefer to deal with the fine-tuning of the current elections, however the right thing to do would be to hand the elections over to the people.

"Let us recall the fact that in five years, the administrative reform will have been completed in Estonia and the electoral college will have become simply an extended version of the Riigikogu," noted Simson.

MP Mark Nutt of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), who has been involved in Estonian politics since the 1990s, referred to the initiative as blatant populism.

"Submitting this amendment at the present moment is logical, because it will draw the attention of the media and the public," Nutt told ERR. According to the IRL member, the issue of direct elections had been debated to the point of clarity in the 1990s already, when a referendum decided that Estonia would be a parliamentary state.

"Direct elections would be topical if we wished to expand the powers of the president," explained Nutt. "This, however, would create the risk of Estonia becoming an authoritarian state."

EKRE Deputy Chairman Jaak Madisson, however, said that what happened this summer and fall proved the weakness of Estonia's current electoral system.

"A directly-elected president must also observe the Constitution, and only the parliament has the power to amend the Constitution," Madisson pointed out in response to the suggested risk of the development of an autocracy. He noted that direct elections would also serve to solve the issue of social cohesion, which would in turn lessen the need for an authoritarian hand.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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