Ministry wants to place electoral college at heart of presidential election ({{commentsTotal}})

Electoral college members casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential elections in Estonia.
Electoral college members casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential elections in Estonia. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

Estonia's Ministry of Justice on Wednesday presented a proposal to the Riigikogu to reform the presidential election procedure by placing the electoral college, which would be the only elective organ, at the heart of the election, daily Postimees writes.

The ministry's proposal would mean that the three existing rounds of voting in the Riigikogu would be abolished, but MPs would still maintain the opportunity to elect the president.

According to the proposal, the electoral college would consist of 101 MPs and 422 electors from local government councils. This means, for example, that there would be 30 electors from Tallinn instead of the current 10, 20 from Tartu, ten electors from 16 cities or municipalities, and either five or two from the rest, depending on size.

Even the smallest municipalities would have two electors instead of one, which means that in the future, both the local coalition and the opposition would send their envoy to the capital. This means that the new electoral college would be made up of 523 members.

In comparison, last year's electoral college consisted of just 335 members, so the increase would mean that the role of municipal councils in electing the president would increase considerably — by about 190 members.

It is clear that the current procedure must be amended in light of the nationwide administrative reform, as otherwise only 107 local electors would remain, Postimees wrote. Even though this amendment could also be made by amending only the Electoral Act, the idea demands a broader review of the electoral procedure, which means amending the Constitution.

Amendments to the Constitution would already be necessary to define the electoral college as the country's sole elective organ, but the wish is also to amend the working procedure of the electoral college — namely, the requirement that at least 21 members of the electoral body are necessary to nominate a candidate would still remain. This means that there could be a maximum of 24 candidates, although such a situation is unlikely to arise in practice.

In reality, 15 candidates could have been nominated with the current format of the electoral body as well. Following the registration of candidates, electors would vote on all candidates in the first round, and if no candidate gains a majority of votes in the first round, the five candidates who collected the most votes would move on to the second round. The first election day would thus be concluded with the first round. The second round would then be held on the second election day, and if nobody received a majority, the four candidates with the most votes would move on to the third round. The third round would also be held on the second day, and if it did not result in the election of a president, one fewer candidate, or altogether three candidates, would move on to the fourth round. The fourth round, if necessary, would be held on the third day, and if it still did not produce a winning candidate, the fifth round would be the deciding round, in which the candidate of two to receive the most votes would be elected.

Should the Riigikogu want to change the current system with the Constitution, it would have three avenues for doing so. The first would be to put the proposed plan to a referendum, while the second would be an expedited procedure, in which case 81 MPs would first have to agree that a vote requiring a constitutional majority can be held on the issue. Should the Riigikogu approve, 68 MPs would then have to vote in favor of the bill, and the Constitution would thereafter be amended.

The third option, which Postimees considered the most realistic, would be for 51 MPs to vote in favor of the bill in two consecutive compositions of the Riigikogu. In this case, the procedure could also be changed in time for the next scheduled presidential election, as the next Riigikogu will be elected in March 2019. For this option to work, however, the current composition of the Riigikogu must also approve the bill.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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