Reform gets behind stripping Russian citizens of right to vote

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Erkki Keldo.
Erkki Keldo. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Reform Party has added its support to Isamaa MPs' bill that aims to take away the local elections voting right of third country citizens but wants to limit its effect to Russian and Belarusian citizens. The party is willing to amend the Constitution if necessary.

"Reform supports the position of the Riigikogu Constitutional Committee to conclude the first reading of the bill," the ruling party's deputy whip Erkki Keldo told ERR after a meeting of Reform MPs on Monday.

Keldo added that because the current bill talks of all third country citizens (non-EU citizens) but the justice chancellor and president have already suggested this could be unconstitutional, changes are in order to "render the bill legally sound."

"It is the position of the Reform Party that citizens of aggressor states voting in our local elections poses a threat in the current security situation, and it is entirely justified to revoke the local voting rights of Russian citizens who have sworn an oath of loyalty to that country. We believe Russian and Belarusian citizens should not be allowed to participate in local elections," the deputy whip said.

Asked whether Reform would be willing to amend the Constitution to that effect, Keldo replied: "Should it turn out that revoking Russian citizens' right to vote requires a constitutional amendment, we are willing to do that."

The revocation of Russian citizens' voting right is not reflected in the coalition agreement as it was one of the topics the sides could not agree on, Keldo said.

"Reform MPs base their actions on the coalition agreement but we hope this necessary change can be made happen by the incumbent Riigikogu. If not, we will have to seek a mandate for it at the 2023 elections," he added.

Eight Isamaa MPs proposed amending the Local Government Council Election Act back in April when Isamaa was still in opposition and Reform ruled with the Center Party.

The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) introduced a similar bill back in 2017 that also made it onto their 2019 elections platform but dropped it after forming a coalition with Center.

Then Justice Minister Maris Lauri (Reform) said in June that the Reform Party does not support the bill in its present form, with doubt voiced at the time also by Reform MP Hanno Pevkur.

Kallas in August: it could cause tensions to flare

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told daily Postimees in an interview on August 23 that revocation of voting rights could cause tension in society.

"Not having the right to begin with, as is the case in Latvia, and having it taken away are two very different things," Kallas said when asked whether she considers the change necessary. She also pointed to places like Sillamäe where leaving only Estonian citizens with the right to vote would give a tiny minority power over the vast majority.

"We need to understand which rules are necessary, but I believe we all want peace and as little tension as possible. We should use the carrot in place of the stick with such things, if we can," she added.

The Center Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) also opposed the move this summer.

The first reading of the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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