Scholar: Prime minister's take means defense issues not for public debate

Paloma Krõõt Tupay.
Paloma Krõõt Tupay. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Paloma Krõõt Tupay, a legal scholar, has criticized Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' claim that the constitution prohibits putting tax questions to a referendum and so a tax debate could not take place before the elections. Given the prime minister's interpretation of the law, the legal scholar says, the campaign should not have focused on national security.

"I can agree that taxes must be raised and that money does not appear out of thin air. However, I disagree with the prime minister's assertion that the Constitution prohibits telling the truth during an election campaign," Paloma Krõõt Tupay said.

Prime Minister Kallas (Reform) told ERR that "the Constitution does not permit, for example, the referendum on tax issues. And why? Because a proposal to raise taxes would never receive public approval [...]."

The legal scholar pointed out that section 106 of the Constitution states: "Issues regarding the budget, taxation, financial obligations of the national government, ratification and denunciation of international treaties, the declaration or termination of a state of emergency, or national defense may not be submitted to a referendum."

However, according to Tupay, the Constitution clearly distinguishes between the institution of the referendum and parliamentary elections.

"Section 106 of the Constitution is not intended to prevent a situation in which the electorate demands a tax increase or a public debate on significant political issues. The section 106 prohibits submitting specific legislation on specific issues to a referendum," she said.

"It is commonly agreed that the primary reason for this provision is 'the need to avoid the fatal effects of populism and the people's current circumstances and temporary difficulties,' (R. Maruste, Põhiseadus ja selle järelevalve. Juura 1997, p. 57). According to the reasoning of the prime minister, however, it would have been illegal to debate national defense during the election campaign, as section 106 of the Constitution prohibits calling a referendum on this issue as well...!?"

Prime Minister and Reform Party Chair Kaja Kallas told ERR that the pledge she made last autumn not to raise taxes applied to the previous government of the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democrats, as well as the state budget for 2023.

When asked why there was little discussion of tax increases during the campaign, Kallas responded that the Constitution prohibits holding a referendum on tax issues.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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