Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says the current Reform/Isamaa/SDE coalition has no plans to amend legislation to restrict the right to vote in local elections to Estonian citizens only, Postimees reports.
In a long interview with the daily, Kallas said (link in Estonian), on being asked about the topic that: "We held a long discussion on this during the coalition negotiations, and we could not reach an agreement on it, meaning [restricting the electorate to citizens only] will not happen during the current coalition's term."
The prime minister noted that there are cities in Estonia where the proportion of Estonian citizens is low, referring primarily to Ida-Viru County, where if a very small minority (ie. Estonian citizens residing in that population center) were to make decisions affecting the majority, it would create tensions.
"It is a different matter if such a right does not exist from the outset, as is the case in Latvia, for example, than if it is an existing right which is then going to be taken away," Kallas went on.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) had also told Vikkeraadio show "Vikerhommik" Monday morning (link in Estonian) that the coalition had not struck an agreement on the issue, meaning the franchise remained unchanged.
In June, prior to the current coalition entering office and at a time when the Reform Party was in office alone, both Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) had stated a desire to remove the right to vote from non-citizens, so far as local elections were concerned, a line which EKRE has taken in the past.
The original Postimees piece (in Estonian) is here.
The policy at least ostensibly relates to the current conflict in Ukraine, since it would, if put in place, remove the right to vote of both Russian citizens resident in Estonia, and the so-called "gray passport" holders, meaning mostly Russian-speaking residents of Estonia who do not have citizenship either of Russia or of Estonia, or any other state.
While this demographic makes up a large proportion of those eligible to vote in local elections, the policy would also strip the right to vote from residents from all other states.
Of the four election types in Estonia, the local elections have the broadest franchise, since all residents are permitted to vote. The last local election was in October last year, the next in October 2025.
The next-largest franchise relates to the European elections, next to be held in 2024. All EU citizens from the other 26 member states, in addition to Estonian citizens themselves, are permitted to vote in this case.
The general election, to the Riigikogu, is open only to Estonian citizens. The next general election is on March 5 2023.
Finally, the presidential elections, held once every five years, are not direct elections. The head of state is elected at the Riigikogu or, if this process fails to get a two thirds majority, by a regional electoral college (which convenes in Tallinn).
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots