Draft law repealing non-citizens voting rights passes first reading

Voters at a polling station in Pärnu.
Voters at a polling station in Pärnu. Source: Kaupo Meiel / ERR

A draft law attempting to strip third-country nationals of their voting rights in local elections passed the first reading in the Riigikogu on Wednesday. Sixty-two MPs voted in favor and 18 against.

The proposed amendments to the law were put forward by Isamaa and would see non-Estonians, with the exception of EU citizens, lose their voting rights in local elections.

The party raised the issue after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February and wants to remove voting rights from Russian and Belarusian citizens.

Under the current rules, citizens with permanent residency can participate in local elections.

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has said if the draft passes she will challenge it in the Supreme Court. Both Madise and President Alar Karis have described the amendments as unconstitutional.

Reform backs the bill but party members have said voting rights should not be stripped from all third-country citizens. Many members of the Center Party and SDE are against the legislation.

Data from the Estonian Electoral Commission shows that of the 139,281 third-country citizens who could have voted in the last local election in 2021, only 57,347 cast a ballot. This is 41.2 percent.

Of those ballots, 29,959 were from Russian citizens and 24,801 from stateless citizens. 528 were cast by Belarusian citizens and 1,584 by Ukrainians.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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