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President refuses to promulgate a law due to rules of proceedings violation

President Alar Karis.
President Alar Karis. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

President Alar Karis has promulgated four laws the government had tied to a vote of confidence but refused to promulgate a fifth, which he finds was passed while in breach of parliamentary procedure and therefore unconstitutional.

The law in question governs the rules for electronic delivery and receipt of documents in tax proceedings.

President Karis finds in his decision that all-out obstruction in the Riigikogu does not give the government the right to keep tying all bills to confidence votes (in which case proposals to amend can be ignored) for as long as obstruction efforts are maintained.

The Supreme Court has found that suffering unrestricted obstruction would allow a small group of MPs to render the parliament unable to work. But allowing the government to keep tying all bills to confidence votes would similarly allow a small group of MPs to turn an extraordinary measure into standard practice, the president writes in his decision.

Karis points out that all proposals to amend where filed by a single party (EKRE) regarding the bill in question in which case it is inaccurate to describe the situation as a standoff between the coalition and all of the opposition.

"In this situation, tying the bill to a vote of confidence takes on a different meaning than what section 98 of the Constitution provides. Instead of attempting to convince MPs to back a piece of legislation, it is used to overcome a procedural hurdle created by a single party."

The president highlighted that part of the Supreme Court's June decision according to which conflicts in parliamentary work need to be resolved by MPs themselves.

The Supreme Court has also found that only bills the passing of which is crucial for the execution of the government's policy can be tied to confidence votes, which the matter at hand is not, Karis suggested.

The Riigikogu will have to discuss the bill again and ensure compliance with the Constitution. The parliament's website reveals the legislature plans to convene to discuss the bill again on December 31.

Karis said earlier in the week, following meetings with representatives of parliamentary parties, that he cannot make promises as to which laws will be promulgated but hinted that he wants to see a connection to the state budget.

The four laws the passing of which was also tied to a government confidence vote and which Karis promulgated concerned repatriation benefits, labor benefits for people with special needs, pharmacists starting out support, parents' sickness benefits and returning medicines to pharmacies.

The president's decision caused some confusion in the Riigikogu on Friday as chairmen of the opposition Isamaa and ERKE parties, Urmas Reinsalu and Martin Helme, found that passing the 2024 budget in a situation where one of the laws it governs has not entered into force would be unconstitutional.

The explanatory memo of the electronic delivery and receipt of tax documents bill puts its financial impact for the Tax and Customs Board at €25,000 annually.

President of the Riigikogu Lauri Hussar took a short recess after which he said that the parliament will continue processing the budget. The speaker pointed to an analysis from 2021 according to which the passing of the state budget does not depend on the order in which related bills are passed.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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