Riigikogu to debate makeup of electoral college beginning next month


It is clear by now that the current Riigikogu will not begin amending the Constitution in order to make changes to the presidential election process. According to current plans, the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu will have a bill ready in April which will establish only the makeup of the electoral college.

Working group member Mart Nutt (IRL) told ERR on Tuesday that there is no plan to amend the Constitution at the moment. This means that also currently not on the table are changes to the law according to which the President of the Republic would be elected by the electoral college and that presidential elections would not be sent back to the Riigikogu, as was the case in the 2016 elections.

According to the Constitution,  the Electoral College consists of members of the Riigikogu as well as representatives of local government councils, and that each local government council elects at least one representative, who must be an Estonian citizen.

According to the President of the Republic Election Act, local governments with a population of up to 10,000 Estonian citizens with the right to vote is to have one representative in the electoral college; local governments with 10,001-50,000 voting citizens, two representatives; with 50,001-100,000, four representatives; and more than 100,000, ten representatives.

In 2016, the electoral college consisted of 335 electors, 101 of whom were members of the Riigikogu and 224 of whom were local electors. However, following the nationwide administrative reform, the number of local governments in Estonia has dropped from 213 as of Jan. 1, 2017 to just 79.

According to Nutt, one option would be to leave the law unchanged, but a key issue would be the overall size of the electoral college. "In my opinion, it should remain around 200 people," he said. "There are various arguments. For example, one opinion has been that local government council representatives should make up 30-50 percent of the electoral college. All kinds of options have their pluses and minuses. We just need to decide around what size [the electoral college] will be."

President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) has also expressed that there is no consensus in the current Riigikogu regarding potential changes to the presidential election procedure and amendments to the Constitution.

"As a member of the presidential elections working group, regarding potential changes to the Constitution, I do not foresee the possibility of the current [Riigikogu] making a decision," Nestor said last week at a press conference following the election of the Board of the Riigikogu.

According to the draft amendment to the President of the Republic Election Act drawn up by officials at Nestor's request, local governments would be represented in the electoral college by a total of 279 electors, bringing the total size of the electoral college, together with 101 MPs, to 380.

For example, Tallinn, which has an eligible voter population of 270,000, would be represented by 30 electors instead of ten, and Tartu 20 electors instead of four, although the city is home to just 69,000 eligible voters. Based on the draft, all other local governments would be represented in presidential elections by two to five electors.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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