In the next Riigikogu elections in 2019, two electoral districts in Tallinn are to receive an additional two mandates, one of which will be taken from the Southeastern Estonian district and the other from the Jõgeva and Tartu Counties district.
According to the Riigikogu Election Act, the number of mandates is distributed across the country's election districts by the National Electoral Committee, which bases its distribution on the borders of the electoral districts. Currently, these electoral districts are based on county borders, with the exception of Tallinn, where the electoral districts are based on its city districts, and Tartu, which as a whole constitutes a separate electoral district as well.
Going forward, the number of mandates distributed will be based on changes in voters' places of residence, which will benefit the capital city of Tallinn and put Southern Estonia at a disadvantage.
"People are increasingly moving to large cities, especially Tallinn," explained National Electoral Committee director Priit Vinkel. "This is why the number of mandates must be changed as well."
Compared to the 2015 Riigikogu elections, the electoral districts of Jõgeva and Tartu Counties and Southeastern Estonia, which includes Võru, Valga and Põlva Counties, will have one mandate less each.
In the next elections, Tallinn's First District, which consists of Haabersti, Põhja-Tallinn and Kristiine will receive one additional mandate, bringing the total to ten, while the electoral district consisting of Kesklinn, Lasnamäe and Pirita will likewise receive one additional mandate, bringing its total to 13.
The loss of one mandate each will reduce the number of mandates in Jõgeva and Tartu Counties to seven and Southeastern Estonia to eight.
Electoral district reform possible by 2023 elections
Speaking to ERR's radio news, Vinkel admitted that larger electoral districts provide some degree of advantage to more popular candidates.
"Indeed, the hope or chances of receiving a larger number of votes and, with that, contribute more to nationwide standings is greater in an electoral district with a large number of mandates," he explained. "There is also a greater chance in a larger electoral district to earn a district mandate. In a smaller electoral district, one must earn the votes of a larger proportion of voters, if we are talking about the absolute number of voters."
The Board of the Riigikogu has requested that the National Electoral Committee come up with proposals for reforming the current system of electoral districts.
According to Vinkel, a number of alternatives are currently being discussed, ranging from smaller electoral districts with five to six mandates each to five larger electoral districts comprised of approximately 20 mandates each. Another possibility is the drawing of electoral districts as equal in size as possible and including 10-11 mandates each.
Currently, the smallest electoral district is Lääne-Viru County, with five seats in the Riigikogu; the largest is the electoral district of Harju and Rapla Counties, which has 14 seats in the Riigikogu.
Editor: Aili Vahtla