Opinion: Alo Lõhmus on the definition of Estonian citizen by blood

Columnist Alo Lõhmus. (Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees/Scanpix)
9/14/2016 9:15 PM
Category: Opinion

Journalist Alo Lõhmus explored the right to Estonian citizenship by "jus sanguinis," Latin for right of blood, as it relates to one's eligibility to run for president — an issue which has had particular attention drawn to it recently after members of a competing political party attempted to cast doubt on the status of presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand's Estonian citizenship.

Political competitors have begun to examine the issue of whether presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand's citizenship is by birth [i.e. jus sanguinis]. Namely, Paragraph 79 of the Constitution states that "An Estonian citizen by birth who has attained forty years of age may be nominated as a candidate for President of the Republic."

Representatives of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia have called into question whether Kaljurand is in compliance with the first of the two criteria.

A publication from 2012 commenting on the Constitution whose editor-in-chief was current Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise, explained the 79th paragraph thus: "The Constitution sets just two formal requirements for candidacy for the office of the President of the Republic — jus sanguinis birthright citizenship and a minimum age of 40 — but it essentially pressuposes the existence of the right to vote. The jus sanguinis condition must emphasize that only a person who is expected to have strong ties to the country could become the head of state."

An expert legal analysis of the Constitution which can be found on the Ministry of Justice's homepage, which was prepared in 1998 and to which Paul Varul, Uno Lõhmus, Märt Rask, EerikäJuhan Truuväli, Kalle Merusk, Jüri Raidla and many other prominent jurists, calls to mind the disputes had in the Constitutional Assembly.

Namely, a draft of the Constitution drawn up by Jüri Raidla's work group stipulated a requirement of a minimum of 25 years of stationary residency in Estonia by a presidential candidate. Jüri Adams' draft, however, the implementation of a three-year stationary residency.

When Constitutional Assembly member Hando Runnel proposed adding in the requirement that the president must be a citizen fo Estonia by [jus sanguinis] birthright, it was rejected by the Constitutional Assembly's IV Working Group, although it was nonetheless voted into the final draft at a session of the assembly.

It seems, therefore, that unlike the the 40-year age qualification which was stressed from the outset, the imposition of the requirement of citizenship by [jus sanguinis] birthright was not a strong conviction of the Constitutional Assembly, but rather a decision made by a whisker for which the corresponding provision in Finnish law was likely taken as an example.

In the Constitutional Assembly's first drafts of the Constitution (in which a head of state still remained in lieu of a president), as published on the homepage of the Estonian National Archives, such wording can be found instead: "Every Estonian citizen who is at least 40 years of age and who has lived in Estonia for at least ten years may run for Head of State."

It is worth noting that if the requirement of a stationary residence of 25 years in Estonia had made it into the final text of the Constitution, then current president Toomas Hendrik Ilves would not have been eligible to run for president in 2006. While his citizenship is without a doubt [jus sanguinis] birthright in nature, foreign-born Estonian Ilves did not live in Estonia until the 1990s.

The Constitutional Assembly, however, has, in my opinion, considered important specifically that a person aspiring to become president is closely linked in the long term with Estonian society and the state.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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