SDE: Rule of law principles must be followed even in a crisis

Indrek Saar.
Indrek Saar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia must follow the rule of law even during a crisis, said Indrek Saar (SDE) on Monday. The party is against new legislation that would strip third-country nationals living in Estonia of their voting rights.

In April, while in opposition, Isamaa presented a bill that proposed stripping third-country nationals of their right to vote in local government elections. The party said the change in the security situation justifies the move.

The Reform Party now supports the proposal in relation to citizens from Russia and Belarus.

As both parties support the draft, it is likely to pass the first reading, despite the chancellor of justice and president believing it to be unconstitutional.

On Monday, SDE discussed for an hour whether or not to support the bill tomorrow, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Riiigikogu faction chairman Indrek Saar said the rule of law must be stuck to even during a crisis.

"Today, Ukraine is defending free values. These are democracy, the rule of law and human rights. If we become like our opponents, i.e. Russia, and play similarly with the rule of law as the moment takes us, then one could ask, rhetorically, what Ukraine is really fighting for," said Saar.

He said if these rights are enshrined in the constitution then they must be granted.

The chairman said this is not an issue that splits the coalition as the party has been against this amendment since the coalition negotiations in the summer.

Additionally, Saar said it is not uncommon for draft legislation to pass the first reading but never become law.

Mart Võrklaev, leader of the Riigikogu's Reform faction, said the party believes more amendments are needed. Not all third-country citizens, such as those from the USA, should be stripped of their right to vote, he said.

"Our clear conviction is that in today's security situation, Russian citizens, Belarusian citizens' right to vote in local elections is rather a security risk," he said.

He admits that the draft will probably not pass but that if necessary a mandate could be sought for the change at the next election in March 2023.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) is against the change and said it sends a clear message that one part of the population is not considered worthy members of society.

"The question arises, what is our expectation towards these people, do we tell them that they are potential enemies and if we send this message to people, then it is a security threat," said Kõlvart.

Both Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise and President Alar Karis have said the bill is unconstitutional. The chancellor has said she will challenge it in the Supreme Court if necessary.


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Editor: Mari Peegel, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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