Free Party seeks to have electors leaving ballots blank counted as not participating

A ballot being cast at the 2016 presidential elections in the Riigikogu. August 29, 2016. (Siim Lõvi/ERR)
9/22/2016 12:35 PM
Category: News

Free Party MPs introduced draft legislation on Thursday which would guarantee the election of a new president in the electoral college following failure in the Riigikogu to do so.

This is not currently guaranteed to be the case, as the election of a new president requires 50 percent plus one vote, and those submitting spoiled or blank ballots are counted as participating in the vote as well.

"It has never been wanted or decided in the Constitutional Assembly that the presidential elections could fail in the electoral college and go back to the Riigikogu," said Free Party MP and Constitutional Committee Deputy Chairman Jüri Adams. "Therefore the current President of the Republic Election Act misinterprets the Constitution and falsifies the political will of the Constitutional Assembly."

According to Adams, the current order would allow for the electoral college elections to fall through in the second round if even just a small number of electors spoiled their ballots or left them blank.

"This gives a very limited group of electors the right to dictate their will to the rest, essentially without having utilized their constitutional right to vote — this cannot be considered quite right from a functioning of democracy standpoint," the MP commented.

"With this draft legislation, those elctors who have spoiled or left their ballot blank would be counted as not having participated in the vote," added Adams. "Going back and forth between the Riigikogu and the electoral college would be depressing for the Estonian political system."

Martin Helme: Kallas vs. Kaljurand? No thanks

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Parliamentary Group Chairman Martin Helme stated on Thursday's ETV broadcast of "Foorum" that if two Reform Party candidates were to make it into the second round of elections in the electoral college on Saturday, the use of blank ballots would be employed.

"I will come right out and say it: if there are two Reformers in the second round, then a blank ballot will surely [be submitted]," claimed Helme. "It cannot be acceptable that we are forced to make a decision on whether to vote for one or another Reform [candidate]."

Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur replied to Helme, saying that the Reform Party is not voting for the president alone, and if Marina Kaljurand and Siim Kallas happen to both make it into the second round, then this decision has been made by the members of the electoral college.

"If you renounce this, then that is your right, but I believe that, taking the Constitution into consideration and with our presidential election system as it is, you must know yourself, then, how and why you will make such a decision," said Pevkur to Helme.

The first round of presidential elections in the electoral college is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn. If needed, a second round will take place at 4 p.m. that day.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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