Chancellor of Justice: Part of Administrative Reform Act unconstitutional
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise finds that part of the Administrative Reform Act passed by the Riigikogu on Jun. 7 is unconstitutional. In a statement to the Supreme Court, which is currently deliberating complaints in the matter by several parishes, Madise wrote that the time granted to parishes to negotiate mergers was too short.
While the Act itself was within the framework specified by the Constitution, the schedule and deadlines attached to it didn’t leave the local councils enough time before switching from negotiated mergers to a reorganization program enforced by the government.
According to the schedule attached to the law, local councils have until May 2017 to negotiate and agree to mergers to meet the goal of larger and more populous parishes.
Madise wrote that enforcing mergers was planned too closely to the local elections, especially taking into account potential legal recourses against the government’s efforts to increase the size and reduce the number of parishes.
Potential candidates in the next local elections couldn’t rely on the situation being clear enough in time for them to plan which local council they would run for. In fact, they couldn’t know within reasonable time which administrative unit of Estonia would actually be conducting local elections. For this reason, the Administrative Reform Act contradicted the constitutional provisions of legal security and democratic principles.
In addition to this, Madise also sees the decision as problematic to pay all those parishes who merge voluntarily before a certain cut-off date €100,000, while those forged to merge would get nothing. This, according to Madise, goes against the principle of the state guaranteeing the parishes’ finances.
The Riigikogu passed the Administrative Reform Act on Jul. 7. The law specifies a minimum number of 5,000 residents per parish and sets out deadlines by which voluntary merger negotiations have to be completed. The local councils have until May 15, 2017, to come to an agreement and merge.
The next local elections are scheduled for Oct. 15, 2017.
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating the case of local councils complaining against the Administrative Reform Act’s demands. The Riigikogu requested an extension until Sep. 15 to submit its position in the case.