Marriage referendum could get stuck in the Riigikogu

SDE members in the Riigikogu. Photo is illustrative.
SDE members in the Riigikogu. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The coalition is zeroing in on the phrasing of the marriage referendum question. Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) vows to introduce so many motions to amend to the referendum bill to render processing it impossible.

ERR's information suggests the people will be asked the following question at the spring plebiscite: "Should marriage remain a union between a man and a woman in Estonia?"

"It is, shall we say, close to what we have put down on paper after consulting with the justice chancellor. There are still some minor details to consider," said Conservative People's Party (EKRE) chairman, Minister of Finance Martin Helme.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that the idea of the marriage referendum is to ask the people whether they support how the Family Act currently describes marriage.

SDE chairman Indrek Saar said that the final phrasing doesn't matter as holding such a referendum in the first place is a mistake.

"The Social Democrats will surely use all parliamentary tools at our disposal to stop the decision," Saar promised.

The chairman added that members of the party plan to file so many motions to amend to render processing the bill impossible and keep the Riigikogu from deciding to hold the referendum.

Similar tactics were successfully used this spring to stop draft legislation that aimed to abolish the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK).

Jõks: Bill cannot be tied to a vote of confidence in the government

Former justice chancellor, sworn lawyer Allar Jõks said that holding a referendum on a matter of national issue is processed like any other bill and because the proposal for draft legislation will have to come from the Riigikogu, the matter cannot be tied to a confidence vote in the government. In other words, the opposition is free to stall or virtually obstruct the vote on the floor.

"I see no obstacles for filing mountains of motions to amend. This matter cannot be tied to a confidence vote because, according to the Riigikogu Rules and Procedures Act, it is only possible for government-initiated bills.

Putting a national issue up for referendum must be proposed by an MP, Riigikogu group or committee," Jõks explained.

The government is also looking at practical issues, in addition to finding ways to counter the opposition's obstruction tactics. The National Electoral Committee has said that the vote cannot be held on the initially agreed upon date of April 25 because of the entry into force in January of a law that sees elections switch to electronic voter lists. Software development necessary for the new lists to be used will not be finished by April.

Jüri Ratas said that the focus has been on technical issues the last few days.

"We want to be sure the vote is secure and the new system thoroughly tested. We are addressing these matters," the PM added.

Martin Helme said that the referendum will be held on paper if need be. "You need a list of registered voters and a ballot paper with a box next to options 'yes' and 'no.' We will hold the vote on paper if necessary. The referendum will not be canceled over a missing plugin," Helme said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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