President: Dear voters, do not content yourself with simple promises
On Monday, President Alar Karis signed a resolution that set March 5, 2023 as the official date of the next Riigikogu election. Afterward, in a live address, he urged voters to not be "content" with "simple promises" and asked politicians not to turn the event into a two-party race.
Having just signed the resolution officially setting 5, March 2023 as the date of the next Riigikogu elections, I would like to share my hopes and concerns with you.
The course that Estonia has maintained has by and large been the right one.
Therein the most important aspect has been the preservation of our democratic state, our language and our culture over time, and the well-being of the people of Estonia. That is not something we can achieve on our own. We require allies who understand us and whom we ourselves understand. Those allies are NATO and the European Union. Time has shown that close cooperation with other countries does not threaten but instead protects Estonia and its culture. The need for allies is something we are feeling more acutely than ever at present, with Russia waging war on Ukraine. We need only think of our history, we need only think about who and where we are, and who we want to be, to understand that we can never be indifferent about that war. This war and the way in which it is resolved will have a lasting impact on the future of Estonia.
Dear voters, do not content yourself with simple promises, do not accept when opinions are suppressed with hollow slogans and empty rallying cries. Ask: how and why are they being made, for whose benefit and at whose expense? Will those promises be funded by levying new taxes, or by taking money from something else? As a former scientist I know how important it is to ask questions and to entertain doubts. Do not take the choices you make in matters of state any more lightly than you take the choices you make in your own lives.
These elections, and the coalition they result in, will decide Estonia's path for the next four years and beyond. As such, we need debate on how people in the country will cope not just in the immediate and short term, but also in the future. We need to think about education, because without an educated population Estonia has no future. We need to give thought to and discuss how our science and universities could be better and to support the development and use of new technologies. Now is the time to find solutions to ensure that Estonia's natural environment remains unsullied, that people in the country have well-paying jobs, that Estonian language and culture flourish, that industry and food production thrive and that rural life is not abandoned.
If we are no smarter after the election campaign than we are now, and if all we hear instead of debate is accusations and insults, then the intervening months will have been wasted.
Proposals have been made of late to establish, in law, restrictions for which security threats are given as justification. But the disorientation that stems from the perception of being under threat – and the desire to do something as quickly as possible in response to it that is simple but ultimately useless or which in fact harms Estonia's interests – is an actual threat to our security. Estonia has a constitution. If laws are promised to the electorate which contravene the constitution, then the electorate is being deceived, because those laws cannot be enacted without amending the constitution.
I have been nonplussed to hear that the result of the Riigikogu elections will be decided between the two most popular political parties. Estonia's parliamentary elections are not a duel. I am not willing to view the election campaign and the elections themselves as a battle between two parties, with the other parties merely standing on the sidelines. Taking such a reductionist view narrows the choices available to the electorate and distorts the elections as a whole.
A bipartisan system would make Estonia's domestic politics tedious and restrict its choices. As such, I urge people to stop dividing political parties up into major parties on whom everything depends and minor parties on whom nothing, or almost nothing, depends. The elections present an opportunity to everyone: voters to make their voices heard, and parties to prevail with their world views.
Therefore, remember the date – 5, March 2023 – and vote. Where Estonia goes from here, and how it gets there, depends on each of us individually and on all of us collectively.
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Editor: Helen Wright