Justice chancellor: No decision can be based on fear or anger alone

Ülle Madise on
Ülle Madise on "Otse uudistemajast". Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The justice chancellor initializing constitutional review of amendments is a completely normal process, also as applies to revoking the local elections voting rights of third country citizens, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said on the "Otse uudistemajast" webcast.

Madise said that her position regarding the bill in question is that no decision should be made based on fear or anger alone. The effects and consequences of decisions need to be carefully weighed and the question of what would improve as a result answered. "It is a completely normal process to analyze whether changes are constitutional," she said.

Should the Riigikogu revoke the right of third country citizens permanently living in Estonia to vote in local elections as per a bill proposed by the coalition Isamaa party, Madise will very probably launch constitutional review proceedings in the Riigikogu and the Supreme Court if necessary.

Madise said that the parliament is within its right to take the bill forward as there are those in Estonia who feel the revocation of voting rights would be justified and would improve matters, and who also need to be able to recognize their voice in parliamentary debate.

Madise said there exists a general consensus that as many members of local communities as possible should get to participate in deciding local matters. "And that is also what the Estonian Constitution says, very much unlike how central governance in organized," she said.

The justice chancellor suggested that the question boils down to whether a ban on non-citizens' participation in local elections can be included in legislation similarly to how the minimum age of people with the right to vote has been specified.

Madise pointed out that the current voting right is not immediately extended to third country citizens who arrive in Estonia.

"To qualify as a permanent resident with the right to vote in local elections, the person must have lived in Estonia for at least five years. And they have to take a language exam. There are several other requirements – the person needs to have an income, pay taxes, have health insurance etc. It is not a case of a third country national from Syria or Ukraine arriving today and being able to vote tomorrow. It does not work quite like that," Madise said.

European Court of Auditors seat should not be political

Regarding the scandal of appointing Estonia's next European Court of Auditors (ECA) member, Madise said the controversy saddens her just like it did when Juhan Parts was eventually nominated.

"It is like the presidential election in some ways – it is decided after every election that we need to change an aspect or two. Unfortunately, it never happens. It is the same with the Court of Auditors. It got very ugly politically and permanently damaged the government's credibility last time and the same thing is happening now. From the constitutional point of view, to avoid this unfortunate situation, it would be sensible to agree that the ECA member is chosen via a public competition as is the case for EU judges," the justice chancellor said.

Madise believes the Court of Auditors position should not be political.

"I do not support annexes to the coalition agreement arbitrarily handing out positions that require expert knowledge in the field, it is insensible. But there is no law to suggest we need a public contest," she said.

Madise added that this is not about whether Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus is a good fit for the position in terms of her qualifications and experience. The National Audit Office has confirmed as much. The question is how to handle the appointment so it would not just be fair but also look the part," she said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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