President signs election decree, warns against two-party battle

President Alar Karis signing the election decree on November 28, 2022.
President Alar Karis signing the election decree on November 28, 2022. Source: Marian Sudakov / presidendi kantselei

President Alar Karis on Monday officially set the date for the 2023 Riigikogu elections. He advised parties to not turn the vote into a "battle" between the two most popular parties Reform and EKRE.

"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," he said in a statement, issued after signing the decree.

Karis said turning the Estonian election system into 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," he continued.

The president also warned against attempts to justify the introduction of legal restrictions on national security, such as recent legislation to strip third citizens of their right to vote in local elections.

The decree setting the date for the 2023 election signed by President Alar Karis, Source: Marian Sudakov / presidendi kantselei

"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," Karis said.

He said Estonia has a constitution and politicians making promises that contradict it are lying to voters.

"If laws are promised to the electorate which contravenes the constitution, then the electorate is being deceived because those laws cannot be enacted without amending the constitution."

The president also told voters not to be "content" with "simple promises".

"[D]o 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."

The Riigikogu election will take place on March 5, 2023. Advanced voting opens on February 27 and closes on March 4.

Karis' full address can be read here.

ERR News' brief election explainer about the upcoming election can be read here.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Helen Wright

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