Kaja Kallas: ERJK bill shows that politics really is horse-trading
What this bill suggests is that politics is horse-trading and saving one's own skin that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Estonian people and the future of the country, Kaja Kallas said in the Riigikogu during the first reading of the bill that seeks to abolish the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK).
Politics has always been surrounded by an air of mistrust. Suspicions in terms of how decisions are made, who gets to influence them and how. It is inevitable to an extent as we see things differently. Having a single view would mean having a dictatorship, which is not something we want.
However, the more doubt there is in terms of how decisions are made, the greater the problem of the state's credibility. Democracy, however, is built on trust. If this trust in how decisions get made is undermined, it is a threat to democracy. If the people do not believe that laws and decisions are transparent, why should they observe them?
The role of every one of us – politicians and members of the Riigikogu – is to disperse mistrust in decision-making processes. Alas, this bill only creates more.
I asked Kert Kingo, who represents the authors of the bill, during the constitutional committee sitting which problem the bill aims to solve?
She said that there is no problem, while things can always be made better. I believe we should generally follow the principle of not trying to fix things that are not broken. Nor can we consider abolishing a watchdog an improvement.
The bill wants to hand the tasks of the ERJK to the National Audit Office. Chapter 11 of the Estonian Constitution provides an exhaustive list of the audit office's tasks and nowhere does it mention exercising surveillance over political parties or other nonprofits. Therefore, passing the bill would also mean yet another instance of going against the constitution.
The auditor general said during the parliament's constitutional committee sitting that giving the audit office this role would fundamentally change its nature and would be something they have neither the will nor the capacity to do. All this in a situation where "there is no problem…"
On a side-note, I am greatly surprised to see one of the coalition partners that has long been talking about a mystical "deep state" and "party of officials" taking over the country wishing to fully surrender control over politicians to public servants.
Yes, the ERJK has members from Riigikogu parties, but we sport different interests and worldview. The fact we are all competitors fighting for the hearts and minds of voters is precisely what makes us suited for the role of watching over one another. We don't want others to get away with using doping.
Unfortunately, one player has been using doping this whole time. Thanks to effective work done by the ERJK and representatives of other parties therein, they have been caught and punished on numerous occasions. But instead of competing fair and square, the doper decides instead to take advantage of its position to eliminate the referee.
It is no chance the coalition puts forth such a bill in crisis time and the prime minister is in a hurry to see it passed. The party is mired in financial affairs investigations, with new ones in the pipeline.
It is the "horse" the Center Party secured from its coalition partners. Allow me to remind you that on September 5, 2019, the prime minister's party was handed a modest conditional fine – with a larger fine held back if Center can refrain from committing a new crime inside 18 months. In March of 2017, the Center Party was issued a precept that will expire if the bill passes through parliament quickly enough.
It is in everyone's interest to dispel mistrust that surrounds politics. The bill at hand achieves nothing to that effect. On the contrary, it is there to suggest politics really is horse-trading and saving one's own skin that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Estonian people and the future of the country.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski