EKRE and Isamaa skeptical about expanding Chancellor of Justice rights

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Bureau of Chancellor of Justice. Source: Sander Koit / ERR

Parliamentary parties have differing views on whether the Chancellor of Justice could also be given the right to challenge general government orders. While the Center Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) support such a move, the Isamaa Party and EKRE are rather cautious.

Current Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said two weeks ago that she had talked to the parliamentary groups on the issue of the role also having the powers to challenge general orders established by the government. There is currently no such option.

"We have discussed this issue briefly with some members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and advisers. I personally think that the Chancellor of Justice could have the right to challenge the government's general arrangements, as in the case of laws this right exists if the Chancellor of Justice participates in the meetings with an advisory voice," Marek Jürgenson, Chairman of the Riigikogu's Legal Affairs Committee, told ERR.

The proposal from the Chancellor of Justice is also supported by the chairman of the Center Party faction, Jaanus Karilaid. "Laws have this option already, there is no compelling reason why the same could not be the case with general government orders," Karilaid said.

While the chancellor can challenge legislation and take the matter to the Supreme Court - Madise has done this several times during her term, including laws instigating pension reform - this is not the case with government orders, the main route by which coronavirus restrictions, for instance, are enacted.

The granting of greater rights to the Chancellor of Justice is also supported by the Deputy Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, Social Democrat Heljo Pikhof (SDE).

She said: "I also think that the Chancellor of Justice could be given the right to challenge the general orders of the government. I don't see any reason why shouldn't she have the right in the case of general government orders, especially since the Chancellor of Justice can participate in government sittings."

Isamaa and EKRE are cautious

Chairman of the Isamaa Party Helir-Valdor Seeder would primarily see an increase in the authority of the Riigikogu.

"The most important issue in challenging general arrangements lies in the division of power between the Riigikogu and the government. Estonia is a parliamentary state and the Riigikogu must retain a key role in making important decisions. Over the years, various groups of the Riigikogu have delegated a large part of their decisions and tasks to the government. The Riigikogu must restore its greater role in policy-making and legislation," Seeder said.

"Expanding the powers of the Chancellor of Justice definitely deserves a thorough discussion and, as with any other issue, a lot depends on the details, but the primary focus must be on increasing the role of the Riigikogu," Seeder said.

Chairman of EKRE Martin Helme said that he would be extremely careful with this idea. "My main concern here is that if we have a parliament and a government that are still accountable to the electorate, we shouldn't create too many institutions alongside the courts that can put decisions of the parliament and the government on ice all the time because then democracy will no longer work as intended," Helme said.

"Whether to give all possible blocking rights to various other institutions, even if they are constitutional institutions, should be carefully considered. I am not saying that this would be categorically ruled out, but I can clearly see that the current political controversy, one institution is simply trying to expand its power, and I am not sure whether we should stand for it," Helme said.

Despite repeated requests, ERR was unable to receive a comment from the Reform Party.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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