Estonians abroad losing interest in elections (1)

E-votes are cast using a national ID card Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
2/25/2015 3:43 PM
Category: Elections

Statistics show that the number of Estonian citizens, who have taken up permanent residence abroad but exercise their right vote in the Estonian general elections, has decreased threefold during the last two decades. Only a fraction of the electorate abroad exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Alo Heinsalu, chairman of the National Electoral Committee, said there are around 77,000 potential voters living abroad. About 63,000 of them have voted before. "In principle, they all have a right to vote, but not all have seized the opportunity and we don't know their constituency," he told ERR radio news.

Finland hosts the largest number of Estonian citizens. According to Heinsalu, the voters in Finland also account for the rise in the number of votes given abroad.

People who live abroad can vote in the embassies, via mail, or online. "Moreover, those who reside abroad can also vote in Estonia in person. So we know how many physical votes have been given abroad, but we don't know the final number, as the online voting is still open and some people insist on coming to Estonia to vote in the polling stations in person," Heinsalu explained.

As of Wednesday morning, over 1,000 Estonian citizens had exercised their right to vote in the embassies, and over 100 votes had been sent in via mail. Heinsalu believes the numbers will increase.

In the last general election in 2011, the total number of votes from abroad was 2,763 - 1,500 on paper and over 1,000 online. "The number has been very small for years now. It was the greatest, at 10,000, in the first general election after regaining independence, in 1992, but has decreased ever since and now we are talking about roughly 3,000 voters," Heinsalu said.

As of Tuesday evening, more than 200,000 voters in Estonia proper had voted in the elections, either electronically or in person. A record number of people - over 165,000 - have already cast their vote online.

The pre- and e-voting will end today at 20:00 and 18:00 respectively. The polling stations will open on Sunday morning.

M. Oll

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