Voters have the chance to tell ministers running in local elections loud and clear that while they wish them luck in the central government, local affairs are under control, Toomas Sildam writes in his weekly comment.
Four parties managed to conduct themselves according to the spirit and letter of the Constitution recently when they reached an agreement and elected Estonia's next president. Alar Karis will take office on October 11. Six days on, he will be able to urge his fellow Estonians to vote in local government council elections.
Parties and election coalitions have already taken off. We are promised the right gear, the square swept clean, protection for particular national groups, room for new thoughts and newcomers, an Estonia better cared for, need for change etc. (Election slogans of various parties and election coalitions – ed.) Social media has become a series of perfectly arranged shots of smiling politicians wearing just enough makeup – some out to keep and others to seize power.
It is not just a question of local elections, free public transport, bicycle paths, kindergarten place fees, support for pensioners and schools' study language. Local elections are a chance for parties to size one another up 18 months before its parliamentary counterpart. Whereas the results will be far more accurate than public opinion polls where support for political parties ranges from 5.6 to 32 percent.
The importance of local elections for parties is reflected in the fact that just two out of 15 ministers in Kaja Kallas' government will not be running for city or rural municipality councils – the prime minister herself and Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna. The remaining 13 ministers of the Reform-Center government will be going after council seats.
It is not fair. The law states in no uncertain terms that a minister "cannot hold any other elected or appointed office outside their administrative duties." Period. A minister who finds success at local elections will have to choose between the municipality council and remaining a member of the central government. Whereas we know they will choose to remain ministers.
By running, ministers are supporting their parties, their ideology and values – so we are told. And it's true: they sincerely want their party to do well at elections, for things to improve in local governments and for local authority to be rendered stronger and more transparent.
However, a minister must not and cannot sit on two chairs at the same time, unlike members of the Riigikogu. Ministers not running in local elections would therefore be fair toward voters, elections and democracy as a whole.
It would also be fair from the point of view of ministries as I doubt ministers only campaign on the weekends or late at night. That's right – it happens at the expense of their work.
Ministers running in local elections also demonstrates lack of trust in local players, suggests they're not on top of things and need someone to have their back, act as the shining star on what would otherwise be a bland list of candidates.
The situation is not hopeless. Voters will on October 17 get the chance to tell ministers running in local elections loud and clear that while they wish them luck in the central government, local affairs are under control.
Editor: Marcus Turovski