President opens new Parliament, Eiki Nestor re-elected as Speaker
The new Estonian Parliament, the seventh since the restoration of independence, held its first session today, in which a preliminary agreement between the Reform Party, the Social Democrats and IRL was put to test.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves opened the first session of XIII Riigikogu with a speech in which he wished the new MPs courage, wisdom and conscience, and emphasized that one of the main objectives for the Parliament remains the same - to strengthen and develop a state created to protect the peace and defend the people against outside aggression, and as a pledge to present and future generations for their social progress and welfare.
Ilves paid a tribute to the previous Parliaments, mentioning the economic reforms that were passed, joining the EU and NATO, and bringing Estonia out of the economic crisis.
As for the record of the previous, 12th Parliament, Ilves stopped short of any praise, but said it will be remembered as a period in which citizens’ voices started calling more assertively for the right to participate in the everyday work of parliament. “The Citizen’s Assembly helped to bring those voices into this chamber, and to some extent, those voices were heard. This is a sign of a mature society,” the President said.
Ilves also had some advice for the upcoming Parliament and coalition government, stressing the need to reduce bureaucracy and be in tune with the ordinary people more.
“Unfortunately, Estonia’s current political climate is rife with politicking, populism in the bad sense of the word, and saving one’s own skin. There’s too much excessive, profligate legislative drafting. The state budget process has become more bureaucratic and rigid. Often, ill-considered decisions are being made just to curry favour. This also includes arguments about things that aren’t worth arguing about, while issues that do deserve more discussion are quietly rubber-stamped on through. I hope that the election coalition currently being formed will be unanimous about this: laws are a means to an end, not an end in itself. Rewriting laws just for their own sake will not help address people’s concerns,” Ilves said.
President also emphasized the need in solidarity on a national defense.
“The border treaty with Russia awaits ratification. I hope that the decision will not founder in an attempt to score short-term political points. We need a national defense system built on solidarity and encompassing all of society. We need effective action to counter malicious propaganda. In national defense, we will continue to need a balanced decision-making process, not a select few people rushing into decisions.”
Despite the coalition agreement between the Reform Party, the Social Democrats and IRL not being signed yet, the three parties made a preliminary pact and the trust between the prospective partners was put to test when Eiki Nestor (the Social Democrats) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (IRL) were elected as the Parliament's Speaker and First Deputy Speaker, with 58 votes each. Jüri Ratas from the Center Party was elected Second Deputy Speaker, with 42 votes.