Allar Jõks: Chancellor of Justice bang on target

Allar Jõks Source: Sorainen

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise is bang on the money in her comments on the constitutionality of the government's pensions reform, rights lawyer, and one of Madise's predecessors, Allar Jõks.

The chancellor could have been accused of violating her oath if she stood in the fields like a scarecrow; as it is her doubts on how the pension reform (which makes employee contributions voluntary, where they had been mandatory for most wage earners-ed.) fit in with the Estonian constitution have led to accusations from both interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) and leader of the Isamaa party, Helir-Valdor Seeder that she was engaging in politics beyond her remit (pension reform in its current guise was Isamaa's brainchild-ed.).

This is like a step back to the previous decade(s). When the chancellor dissents, blame him or her for interfering in politics. Classic stuff. All this has been seen many times before, for twenty years.

We can call to mind the banning of electoral coalitions in the local elections at the beginning of this century by the KERE (coalition of the Center Party and Reform Party-ed.). On two occasions, as chancellor, I had to resort to the Supreme Court.

Remember the cries of "half melted" and "the midwife is out of the closet" - as chancellor's proposals to regulate political party funding conflicted with this KERE.

Other disputes not forgotten include whether MPs can be on the boards of state-owned companies, the list goes on, but there is one common thread running through all - "the Chancellor of justice interfered in politics", which makes it seem that on Thursday when the latest accusations came in, Isamaa and EKRE had been studying KERE tactics hard.

The fact the interior minister didn't say anything new is not surprising. A lack of experience in governance is excusable. For the minister, the constitution may just be a way of reaping political capital on matters irrelevant to the country - for instance a referendum on marriage.

Sadly, the belief that the state's legislative activity is "untouchable territory", where the constitution does not apply, characterizes many rulers.

There are those who think the best solution for the party is the best for everyone.

There are those who, in making laws, prefer conviction over facts; the constitution becomes a sacred cow for them only when they face opposition.

When taking office, the chancellor vows to remain faithful to the Estonian people, the Republic of Estonia and their constitutional order. There is nothing to suggest that the chancellor has sworn allegiance to the ruling coalition, however.

There is a heated debate going on in society on the constitutionality of the bill. The majority of lawyers who have analyzed it do see it as unconstitutional. 

Legal analysis commissioned by the Ministry of Finance, which prepared the bill, has been the most critical. In such a climate, the chancellor of justice could be accused of disobeying her oath if she just sat there.

Chancellor and the Supreme Court

It is within the competence of the Chancellor of Justice to bring important disputes in society to the Supreme Court. This is the only way to achieve a legal pax, and certainty that laws are in line with the constitution. In that sense, it doesn't matter who wins a dispute, the chancellor or the highest court in the land.

Ülle Madise, the Chancellor of Justice, has repeatedly won against the Supreme Court, but lost a dispute over the alcohol excise hike, even though in this case history and the market's behavior later confirmed that the Chancellor of Justice had turned out to be right.

In any case, the conclusion can't be drawn that the chancellor, in losing a Supreme Court case, was engaged in politics – juast as members of the Riigikogu who have voted on the Supreme Court to pass a law declared unconstitutional, should not resign.

This week's allegations prove that the Chancellor of Justice was bang on target.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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