EKRE MP: All third country nationals need to be stripped of right to vote

Mart Helme.
Mart Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The local elections voting right should be taken away from all third country nationals, and even though Isamaa's corresponding bill is not ideal, EKRE are prepared to support it, deputy chair of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme said.

"Half an egg is better than an empty shell. It is true that the bill is not perfect, but we will probably get behind it," the EKRE MP said, adding that dusting off a bill to strip non-citizens of the right to vote in local elections EKRE proposed in the previous Riigikogu would be better still.

The Isamaa bill in question prescribes stripping all third country nationals of the local elections voting right, while the Reform Party believes that the right should only be stripped from Russian citizens and temporarily. Junior coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SDE) sees any plan to revoke voting rights as a threat to national security.

Mart Helme said that the right to vote needs to be taken away from all third country nationals.

"We believe it should be done regarding all third country citizens – from Latin America, Asia, wherever – and permanently, unlike what Reform are proposing. Things in Estonia need to be decided by Estonian citizens. And those who want to have a say can learn the language, take the naturalization exams and Estonian citizenship and be included as full and equal citizens," he said.

Helme described as incomprehensible the ruling Reform Party's wish to make the restriction temporary.

"What do they mean by wartime – wars end, but if we look at how the Reform Party is flooding Estonia with people of Slavic origin, the 150,000 people who have arrived here would be given the right to vote after the war. Are you kidding? It is an unthinkable approach."

The EKRE MP said that non-citizens should never have been given the right to vote.

"Our position is very clear: Estonia should never have expanded the voting rights only to spend the next 20 years moaning about how bad it is that Center have been ruling Tallinn for two decades. Why give them the opportunity? Allow me to recall that the right to vote was given by the same parties – Reform and Isamaa –that are now beating their chests, demanding its revocation. It is populism on their part. But if they are serious, then we will of course support it," Helme said.

Deputy chair of the opposition Center Party Jaanus Karilaid has referred to the bill as a nothing but a campaign drive and said that Center will not get behind stripping non-citizens of the right to vote in the locals.

"Maintaining peace at home has been a consistent policy for us. The desire to upset that peace and manufacture instability in the pursuit of votes is a classic move and hardly surprising," Karilaid said.

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has said that the plan to take away non-citizens' local elections voting right is contrary to the Estonian Constitution and that she is prepared to take the bill to the Supreme Court should the Riigikogu pass it and the president promulgate it.

How many third-country nationals vote in Estonia?

Vote counting at the 2021 local elections. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Third-country nationals can vote in local elections in Estonia if they have obtained permanent resident status.

At the last local election in 2021, more than 57,000 third-country nationals cast a ballot.

Data from the Election Committee analyzed by ERR News included nationalities if more than five people had voted. This data set showed 57,347 ballots were submitted from voters from 19 countries.

The turnout rate of non-Estonians was 41.2 percent.

The highest number of votes came from Estonia's largest migrant communities: Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. But citizens from further afield, such as the USA and China also participated.

In total, including EU citizens, more than 61,200 non-Estonians voted, which is 10.47 percent of all ballots cast. 


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Editor: Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright

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