Public opinion poll launched about parish merger in Harju County
The decision phase has been reached in the question of merging Kernu, Nissi, and Saue parishes as well the town of Saue. Launched today and lasting until Sunday, a public opinion poll is open to all local residents at least 16 years of age regarding whether or not they support the merger and what they would like to name the newly formed parish.
Approximately 16,000 people are eligible to vote in this poll—roughly equivalent to the total current population of the city of Rakvere, the eighth biggest city in Estonia.
Eligible people can participate in the poll either via the internet or by visiting their local survey administration site. E-voting is a fast and easy way to vote for those with either the national ID card or special Mobiil-ID SIM card. The e-voting process will be open for five days, from Monday through Friday, and the link to vote online can be found either on the homepage of their local municipality or the homepage dedicated to the topic of the merger itself.
Survey administration sites with traditional ballot voting will be open on three specific dates—February 29th and March 1st for early voting, as well as Sunday, March 6th for the primary voting day. There are seven survey administration sites in total: in Saue, Laagri, Ääsmäe, Turba, Riisipere, Haiba, Ruila, and the Laitse-Kaasiku area. Participating residents can vote either for or against the merger and whether they think the new parish should be named Lääne-Harju (Western Harju) parish or Saue parish.
The most highly populated parish in Estonia
The parish being formed will have a population of about 21,000, which would rank sixth in size among municipalities in Estonia. Over the course of the negotiations, which began in 2014, it was established that the town of Saue would serve as the seat of the municipal government, but municipal services would be provided in administrative centers in Laagri, Ääsmäe, Haiba, Laitse, Riisipere and Turba as well. The parish would also like to see two robust upper secondary schools (gymnasiums)—a state school in Laagri and a municipal school in Saue. Investment projects have been identified and prioritized, and a general consensus has been reached that the level of social benefits available to all residents of the new parish must be adjusted according to the highest available standard.
The poll's initial results will be available already on March 7th; in addition, the local government councils of Kemu, Nissi, and Saue parishes as well as the town of Saueover will decide over the course of the month of March whether or not to support the merger.
The councils are not obligated to take the results of the public poll into consideriation when making their decisions, but it is likely that their opinions will prove influential in the case of a remotely respectable level of poll participation, which is why negotiators are hoping for a big turnout. If the merger plan is approved by the councils this spring, the formation of the new parish will go into legal effect after the next local elections in October of 2017.
This poll will likely not be the last conducted in Estonia this year—currently 56 such negotiations are in the works across the country, in accordance with the Strategy for the Administrative Reform in the Spehere of Local Government.