Supreme Court throws out challenge to decision to quash filibustering

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

The Supreme Court decided not to hear a complaint by the Riigikogu opposition parties following decisions taken in the parliament that made it impossible to continue filibustering.

The top court's resolution reads, "Not to hear a complaint by members of the Riigikogu regarding a decision taken by the parliament on May 15, 2023 to stop procedural questions before approving the parliament's agenda."

The Supreme Court also decided not to satisfy complaints over decisions passed by the Riigikogu majority to stop accepting new bill submissions and interpellation requests from opposition MPs on May 15, 16 and 22 to effectively end the opposition's filibustering regarding bills the government wished to enact.

This means the Supreme Court has thrown out all of the opposition's challenges to votes in the Riigikogu that put an end to obstruction tactics which saw opposition parties file huge numbers of bills, procedural question and interpellations.

The court explained that obstruction needs to be tolerated to a certain extent as a tool of political struggle and parliamentary work, which the minority can use to keep the majority from enacting its will.

"Obstruction must not be used to paralyze the work of the Riigikogu to an extent where it becomes impossible for the legislator to perform its constitutional functions. This would constitute misuse of the powers of the parliamentary minority. The Riigikogu minority can temporarily obstruct the work of the parliament, while this cannot continue indefinitely. Allowing unlimited obstruction would make it possible for a handful of MPs to render the parliament incapable of work. Considering the central role of the Riigikogu in Estonia's constitutional order, a prolonger period of inability to work in the parliament might paralyze constitutional order," the Supreme Court found in its decision.

The court also found that parliamentary conflicts need to be solved by the parliament, adding that the parliamentary majority and the government must also consider the constitutional requirements of the parliamentary decision-making process.

"The equal right of MPs to participate in deliberations, the transparency and public nature of proceedings and sufficient time afforded to debate bills and shape positions in the Riigikogu to facilitate making informed decisions need to be ensured. The top court has previously found that tying the passing of bills to votes of confidence in the government is permissible when used to overcome deadlock in the parliament or government, while its overuse could eventually disable parliamentary debate and democracy. Therefore, both unlimited obstruction and tying bills to confidence votes too often work to disable the parliament. Both pose risks to the constitutional order in the end."

Representatives of the opposition EKRE, Center Party and Isamaa said on Wednesday, May 17 that they would challenge the decisions to quash filibustering in the top court. The opposition's legal counsel Paul Keres said on May 25 that the opposition does not wish to disclose the text of the complaint, which nevertheless leaked some time later.

Opposition MPs found that their right to pursue parliamentary obstruction was violated when coalition MPs from the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party voted in favor of accepting no more bills and interpellations into proceedings.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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