The political debate over revoking Russian and Belarusian citizens' right to vote in local elections has stalled, but Reform MP Eerik-Niiles Kross told Vikerradio on Thursday that the draft bill will reach the Riigikogu already this year, even if the government does not intend to propose it.
Eerik-Niiles Kross, foreign affairs committee member and Israel-Estonia parliamentary friendship group chair, told Vikkerradio's morning show on Thursday that the process of removing Russian and Belarusian citizens' local election voting rights in Estonia has not stalled, as it might seem to the public.
"At the moment, Morozov can still freely elect Tartu City Council, for example, but the matter is not stuck; the Ministry of Justice, as far as I know, has completed a draft; whether it is now in this so-called consultation period, I do not know, but we have quite a lot of different opinions on this issue between the Chancellor of Justice, the government and different parliamentary factions," he said, adding that the worry is about the wording "to take away."
"In fact, the draft I was involved with in the early stages talks about suspending the right to vote," he said.
Estonia's Constitution states that permanent residents can vote in local elections, but the Constitution can always be changed, Kross said, adding that at least the Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise also confirms this.
"Well, the right to vote can be suspended in a variety of circumstances under Estonian law and the Constitution. Elections, for example, do not take place during wartime. That is what war is; if Estonia is at war, no one present in this studio right now would have the right to vote. For example, inmates with a criminal record have no right to vote, and so on," he continued.
"So, I believe this logic applies quite well to Russian and Belarusian citizens at the moment. This proposal states that residents of the aggressor country will not be allowed to participate in elections," Kross said.
If we have many Russian citizens who are theoretically at risk of mobilization, and whose nation is at war, their electoral choice may not be objective or compatible with our legal space, he explained.
So what is the status of the draft, the hosts asked.
"I will wait to see if the government sends it out, and if not, we will submit it ourselves. The Riigikogu members have the right of legislative initiative under the Estonian Constitution, so we will submit it without, so to speak, the state's direct involvement," Kross said.
Kross said the draft will be introduced in 2024. "There will certainly be a draft, but whether it will be passed I cannot say here now," he said.
Editor: Kristina Kersa
Source: Interviewers Margit Kilumets and Janek Luts.