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Constitution transcends government, says MP involved in its birth

Liia Hänni.
Liia Hänni. Source: Ülo Josing/ERR

Constitutional expert and MP Liia Hänni (SDE) says that the vote on the government's position on the UN Global Migration Compact belongs to the government and not parliament, even if it causes that government to collapse.

''Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' proposal of Estonia joining the UN compact on the basis of a Riigikogu vote rather than the decision of the government threatens to pitch Estonia into a constitutional crisis,'' Ms Hänni wrote on her social media page.

According to Ms Hänni, such a move would mean sacrificing the division between legislative and executive power in Estonia on the altar of saving the government.

Extra-constitutional vote to save government's skins?

The 101-member Riigikogu is due to vote on the issue on Monday morning, following a government split with junior coalition party Isamaa/Pro Patria opposing the compact, and the social democratic party (SDE), the other junior coalition parter, in turn calling for justice minister Urmas Reinsalu's resignation. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas of the senior coalition party (Centre) had tried to get government unity on the issue at the tail end of last week.

"Again, party interests are being placed ahead of those of the state. A legitimate way out of the current situation would be to join the migration framework on the basis of government vote. If that government coalition breaks down as a result, this is a lesser calamity than blurring the lines of the constitutional workings of the state,'' Ms Hänni continued in her post.

An additional dimension comes from the office of President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has been the figurehead in promoting Estonia at the UN and internationally, with an eye on a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, an ambition which now seems in tatters.

President's reach also an issue

Ms Kaljulaid also supported at least discussions in the Riigikogu on the compact, which is not signed, but verbally endorsed by states acceding to it, and deals with the plight of around 230 million people worldwide, whom the UN says are migrants.

The president's own powers were also questioned in some quarters; she has said she will not attend the meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco I nDecember without government unity and subseqently stated she will not be attending the UN General Assembly vote on the compact in New York the following month. Ms Kaljulaid met with the UN Secretary General António Guterres, and was involved I a discussion with its African group, as recently as the beginning of November.

Liia Hänni is along serving MP having sat in several Riigikogu sessions with the SDE and belonged to the Constitution Affairs Committee throughout that time. She was also a member of the Constitutional Assembly, which functioned from 1991-1992 and drafted the consitution of the newly-independent Estonian Republic.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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