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No legal scope for opposition Supreme Court preliminary legal protection

Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu.
Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Riigikogu opposition parties have appealed to the Supreme Court challenging a decision which restricted the submission of bills and questions during a recently concluded filibuster. However, the law does not provide for preliminary legal protection to be granted by the Supreme Court and to the opposition parties.

Martin Helme, chair of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which is in opposition, said last week that a request for preliminary legal protection would likely be included in the legal appeal.

Meanwhile attorney-at-law Paul Keres, acting for the opposition, said Monday that in fact the applicants do not plan to apply for this protection.

In any case, should the opposition wish to request this protection, it is not applicable in the case of a Riigikogu complaint, under current Estonian law.

Former Supreme Court chair Rait Maruste said: "Each type of procedure category has its own procedural arrangements; administrative law has its own, as does judicial supervision of the Constitution."

Maruste added that he has not seen the content of the specific complaint, but presumed the main thrust of it is a challenge to a decision by the Riigikogu board, to call time on the issuing of legislative amendments and queries by way of a filibuster which had been going on a week-and-a-half by that point in time.

Maruste added: "The law has provided for this possibility, but the law does not contain any norm whereby the Riigikogu can apply preliminary legal protection when reviewing a complaint, as is possible in other procedures."

"Therefore, while it might be desired, this cannot be carried out, while if the Supreme Court did so, it would be operating outside of its own area of competence, which would be an offense in and of itself," Maruste went on.

In fact, only the Riigikogu itself can amend this principle.

"If it is necessary - and I do not rule out its being necessary in certain cases - then for this purpose, the procedure for supplementing or amending the law must be initiated and must be passed by the Riigikogu; all this would be carried out via the general procedure for the processing and entry into force of legislation," Maruste went on, referring to the legislative procedure at the Rigiikogu.

The opposition says that its right to deploy obstruction tactics as part of the democratic process was hindered when MPs from the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition, who make up a majority at the Riigikogu, voted in favor of ending the taking on of legislative amendments and inquiries.

The proposal to end the filibuster was made by the Riigikogu board, namely the speaker, Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) and his two deputies.

The filibuster itself related to amendments to family law which would cut benefits to families. This bill did then pass its first reading (of three).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

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