Riigikogu parties looking for solution to filibustering

Members of parliament attend the extraordinary Riigikogu sitting, June 12.
Members of parliament attend the extraordinary Riigikogu sitting, June 12. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The workgroup of the Riigikogu is planning to submit the amendment proposals of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act. The head of the group, Hanno Pevkur (Reform), said that it's the most difficult to find a solution to obstruction tactics which, he said, may paralyze the Riigikogu's work.

Representatives of all parties and experts are involved in the workgroup, which follows a period of obstruction tactics on the part of the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in the final days of the spring 2021 Riigikogu session.

Hanno Pevkur, the working party's leader, said that an attempt has been made to be as apolitical as possible, since each party may one day be in a coalition and the next in opposition, but there are many questions remaining, he added.

"Starting with asking the infamous procedural questions to the harmonization of procedural rules," Pevkur said.

Pevkur stated that there are many different forms in the work of the Riigikogu: adoption of a petition, ratification of international agreements, processing of draft laws.

"The labyrinth of procedures is very large. Our aim is to make it as simplified as possible, while still stimulating political debate in the parliament," Pevkur said.

Lauri Läänemets, a representative of the opposition Social Democratic Party who sits on the workgroup, says he agrees that the discussions must become more meaningful. Among other things, the discussion of issues of national importance should be made more effective. The questioners should first present a report, or at least an overview of the situation so that other members can get to know the subject and gather their thoughts.

"Maybe then the legislative changes will take place after the discussions," Läänemets, whose own party has not been above filibustering either, went on.

The most heated debate concerns exactly how to deal with obstruction.

Lauri Läänemets and Hanno Pevkur agree that instead of confrontation, there should be a discussion.

"For example, if one party submits ten thousand amendments to a draft, it is possible to suspend the work of the parliament. This is the most difficult issue that needs to be resolved, but at least all parties have the will," Pevkur confirmed.

Pevkur gave the example that instead of taking breaks, the author of the amendment could take the floor and explain why he considers this amendment necessary. "Perhaps this would contribute to the political debate and a blunt obstruction would not be necessary," Pevkur added..

Läänemets emphasized that the obstruction must definitely remain, otherwise the opposition would not have the opportunity to influence at all. He said that in case of obstruction, the emphasis should shift from the coalition to the opposition. He also agreed that a debate should take place, instead of taking empty breaks.

Läänemets added that the representatives of the parties are looking for common ground in the workgroup, and there is no gap between the opposition and the coalition.

"There is a principle in the Riigikogu that if we want to change the rules of procedure and especially if we want to change it so much, all political groups must agree," Läänemets said.

The proposals to amend the Rules of Procedure Internal Rules Act are planned to be put together in the autumn and the Riigikogu plans to discuss them no later than Christmas. 

The recent filibustering conducted by EKRE concerned an act which would concentrate biometric data into the one central database, whereas it had been dispersed across several sites before. The act permitting the change passed at the Riigikogu last week, but other legislation missed the boat, as a result of the challenge.

The Riigikogu reconvenes in mid-September for normal business, and at the end of August for sessions specifically aimed at electing the next president.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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