The non-parliamentary Eesti 200 party supports taking away the right to vote in local elections of Russian citizens living in Estonia based on a long-term residence permit, party leader Lauri Hussar said.
"Russian citizens equipped with the right to vote could be a problem, which is why we need to defuse the situation," Hussar told ERR. "Personally, I believe that the possibility constitutes a security risk today," he added.
The Eesti 200 leader pointed to the Brexit vote where, according to Hussar, many who had previously taken no interest in politics were activated to take part.
"Looking at all the people who can vote in local elections and those who could potentially come out and be activated, similarly to the Brexit vote where people who had not actively participated in society were activated through technological means – we need to prioritize national security. And because it is a security risk, I believe such a step is rather necessary today," he offered.
In terms of Russian citizens being allowed to vote only in local and not general elections, Hussar said that larger local governments sometimes have to decide matters the effects of which go beyond.
"If we look at the tasks of local governments and the things that can be done through local governments, this goes well beyond the local level in the example of larger cities and municipalities. Major councils discuss far more than local matters," he said. "Therefore, I believe we should look at the big picture here. We are talking about the greatest security crisis of the last several decades in which one has to be clear in one's positions."
Asked whether the view was his or Eesti 200's, Hussar said that the board has discussed the matter, with the party's previous chair Kristina Kallas sharing the sentiment.
Draft legislation to strip third country nationals of the right to vote in local elections has been proposed by junior coalition partner Isamaa. The ruling Reform Party has entered a bill to only strip Russian citizens of the right. Deputy chairman of the opposition leader the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme said on Friday that the party believes all third country citizens should be stripped of the right to vote in the locals and that his party is prepared to support Isamaa's bill.
The opposition Center Party and coalition Social Democratic Party remain opposed to plans to revoke voting rights.
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.
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.
Editor: Marcus Turovski