Politicians do not want to postpone Estonian local elections

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Constituent casting a vote in a poll booth in the 2017 local government elections. Source: (Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR)

Political parties do not want to postpone this autumn's local elections due to coronavirus, newspaper Postimees reported on Monday. While in Estonia it is possible to vote online, many people still prefer to vote in a polling booth.

The newspaper wrote the Center Party is the only party willing to consider a postponement. Chairman of the Center Party Jüri Ratas said while the popularity of online voting is increasing, the pandemic must be kept in mind.

"If the pandemic continues unabated, then certainly we are ready to make the decision that the elections should be postponed, but I think in autumn we will be in a place where the election can take place in a timely manner," he said.

The Reform Party said postponing the elections can only be considered in extreme cases and it is not in favor of doing so. It hopes online voting and vaccination will mean the election can be carried out.

Chairman of EKRE and leader of the opposition Martin Helme said there is no way the election can be suspended and, if necessary, other solutions must be found.

Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party also said the election should be held in November and hoped the epidemiological situation would allow it.

While some elections have taken place as usual during the coronavirus pandemic with social distancing rules, such as in Lithuania, other countries, such as Finland, have decided to postpone. Finland pushed its local elections back from April 2021 to June.

The government's coronavirus vaccination schedule hopes to start mass vaccination of non-risk groups in May or June which would allow the local elections to go ahead in November.

However, this depends on the number of vaccine doses delivered to Estonia and manufacturers are still reducing their deliveries most weeks.

How many people vote online?

The graph below shows the share of voters casting a ballot online in Estonian elections between 2009 and 2019. The graph shows data from Riigikogu, local and European Parliament elections which was taken from the "Proportions of i-voting" graph on the Valimised website which shows election results from all Estonian elections.   

You can see the number of people who vote online has risen considerably in the last 10 years, from 15.8 percent at the local elections in 2009 to 46.7 percent at the last European Parliament (EP) elections 2019.

As voter groups differ at each election, if only comparing local election results then the number of online voters has doubled since 2009, rising from 15.8 percent to 31.7 percent at the last local elections in 2017. At the previous lcoal election in 2005 only 1.9 percent of voters cast a ballot online.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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