Bill to guarantee election of president in electoral college passes first reading
A bill submitted by the parliamentary group of the Free Party to guarantee that in case of a failed presidential election in the Riigikogu, the electoral college would actually name the next head of state, passed its first reading on Tuesday.
The Estonian president is elected in the Riigikogu. But if the national parliament should fail to agree on a candidate in two balloting rounds and a run-off, the task of choosing the head of state is passed on to the electoral college of members of parliament as well as deputies of the country’s municipalities.
Currently, there is no guarantee that the college actually elects the head of state. In its two voting rounds, it can still happen that no single candidate gets the votes needed for election. An example for this was the run-off between Siim Kallas (Reform) and Allar Jõks (independent) on Sept. 24 this year. Neither of them got elected, and the task of choosing the president was handed back to parliament, where with President Kersti Kaljulaid, a compromise candidate was found.
This was possible because empty and invalid ballot sheets still count as votes cast in the electoral college. The Free Party’s bill intends to change this.
“The current law on electing the President of the Republic misinterprets and falsifies the political will of the Constitutional Assembly,” Free Party MP and deputy chairman of the Riigikogu’s Constitutional Committee, Jüri Adams, said on Tuesday. The Constitutional Assembly was a representative body convened following Estonia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991; Adams was one of its members.
According to Adams, just a small number of deputies handing in empty or invalid ballot sheets could make the election in the electoral college fail. “This gives a very limited group of deputies the right to force their will upon everybody else,” Adams said, adding that from the point of view of a democracy, this couldn’t be considered fair.
The bill would clarify matters by simply excluding the votes of all those who turn in empty or invalid ballot sheeds, Adams explained. Letting the election go back and forth between the Riigikogu and the college was damaging to the Estonian system.
Follow the links below to read more about the 2016 presidential election.