Kallas: This government won't strip Russian citizens' right to local vote

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) during a government press conference. September 2022.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) during a government press conference. September 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Thursday that there is no agreement in the current Reform-Isamaa-SDE government coalition to move forward with the plan to disenfranchise Russian and Belarusian citizens living in Estonia, who currently have the right to vote in local elections.

"As I have previously said, we have no agreement in this regard in this government, in this coalition," Kallas said during Thursday's government press conference. "And during this composition of the Riigikogu, in this coalition, we won't be going anywhere with this decision. The parliament will of course handle these issues, and this issue will certainly come up during the elections."

One thing is indeed the fact that there is a war, due to which the situation has changed, the prime minister acknowledged. "But another that we have to consider is the fact that not giving someone something is one decision, but taking something away is a completely different decision with a quite different weight involved."

A bill initiated by the coalition Isamaa aimed at stripping third-country residents of Estonia of their right to vote in local elections passed its first reading in the Riigikogu on Wednesday.

Seeder: We've got the votes to pass bill

Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder told ERR Thursday afternoon that Kaja Kallas is mistaken in saying that no one would be moving forward with this issue in the current composition of the Riigikogu.

"Isamaa will certainly be moving forward with this issue," he said.

"The Reform Party is giving very mixed signals regarding the the voting rights issue," Seeder continued. "Just yesterday, Reform member [MP Toomas] Kivimägi said during the handling of the Isamaa-initiated bill that the Reform Party was prepared to discuss amending the Constitution. Reform members together with EKRE supported concluding the first reading of the Isamaa-initiated bill. What does this mean, then? Are there two camps in the Reform Party, one of which doesn't comprehend the changed security situation? The fact that the Social Democrata don't support the Isamaa-initiated bill doesn't mean that this vital change can't be made."

When the party first introduced its initiative in April, it did not have the support of the majority of the Riigikogu, the Isamaa chair recalled.

"Yesterday's vote demonstrated that that majority now exists," he said. "A mental shift has taken place, and now we can initiate the corresponding constitutional amendment as well if necessary, in hopes that the Reform Party and EKRE still support Isamaa's proposal."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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