President Suggests E-Activism as Solution for Political Dispute
In a discussion on political turmoil in Estonia, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves put forth a proposal characteristic of him - an e-solution, this time geared toward civic activism.
The head of state on Wednesday called together a roomful of politicians, activists and commentators to a converted cellar space near his Kadriorg residence. They addressed discontent with the government, which has recently transcended the mere political arena in the form of protests and a major petition.
Reiterating her familiar criticism, Kadri Simson, deputy chair of the Center Party, said the tension was the result of what she described as the government's longstanding arrogance and unwillingness for dialogue. She said the political system has turned into one where the opposition has no say, pointing to how coalition MPs have shut down all 100 amendment motions for the 2013 budget. Simson said the government has refused to cooperate with nonpolitical groups as well, such as health care workers who recently went on strike.
In a milder tone, Reform Party Deputy Chair Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said she would not define the current political situation as a "crisis.“ She said Wednesday's meeting attested to a healthy democracy that is far from "crumbling,“ as was suggested by Charter 12, a petition launched online last week that has collected over 17,000 signatures and which prompted the president to summon the meeting.
But despite the heated rhetoric of recent weeks, the general mood at Wednesday's debate was reserved and cooperative. Some of the participants continued to ponder whether there was or was not in fact a crisis. A list of broad issues for moving forward was produced, over which there seemed to be no disagreement.
The discussion culminated with the president's proposal for an online initiative, which would allow citizens to suggest policy changes. The suggestions would be screened by the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, an NGO, and presented to Parliament by March 31, with the hope that the laws would be passed by the midsummer holiday in the second half of June.
In his closing statement, President Ilves called for society "to turn the heat down a notch" and opt for more a peaceful political dialogue.