Government still planning to hold marriage vote in spring 2021 ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The government had agreed to hold a vote on the concept of marriage in April or May next year, despite the Electoral Committee warning this may not be possible if it wants to use a new electronic voter list.

"We have agreed that a referendum will take place," the chairman of the Center Party and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said at the government's press conference on Thursday. 

"We wish to hold this referendum in April until mid-May," Ratas said.

Minister of Finance Martin Helme, chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) said: "It is excluded that the plebiscite will not take place."

He said that the Electoral Office has offered to the government a description of the technical problems that exist. "They are technical indeed," Helme said. "I am not concerned about it at all."

"The functioning of democracy does not depend on whether some new plugin we have is functional," Helme said. "If necessary, we will hold [the plebiscite] on paper."

Ratas said that the coalition is working on one version of the question. "The question has been agreed in principle," Ratas said. "We have come very close to an agreement."

Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that the question of the vote will likely be: "Should marriage in Estonia remain as a union between one man and one woman?".

The prime minister said that in recent days, the government has focused on the technical terms of the conduct of the vote. Ratas said holding the vote is a compromise that was arrived at when discussing a proposal to revoke the Registered Partnership Act. 

The Election Committee said on Wednesday the end of May 2021 is more realistic date for the vote if new legislation enters into force in January which allows for the creation of an electronic voter list.  

The electronic voter list was planned to be first used at the local elections in October 2021, when the marriage vote was originally scheduled to take place, but moving the date forward has caused some issues.

The electronic voter lists will allow voters to cast a ballot at any polling station in Estonia during a referendum, from any polling place within their electoral district in elections and stops the possibility of duplication. The legislation allowing for its use will enter into force on January 1.

Using paper lists, which are currently used, is another way to hold the vote.

This update has not been carried out before as money was not allocated for its development in the state budget.

On Thursday, Ratas also said the Center Party would not raise other topics to voted on at the same time, which had been previously suggested. "We are working on one issue today in the referendum," Ratas said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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