2019 general election: Independents likely to run, unlikely to get elected

Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu.
Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu. Source: (Siim Lõvi /ERR)

Advisor at the State Electoral Office, Kristi Kirsberg, told ERR on Thursday that like in previous years they have had several requests for information about the conditions to stand in the upcoming general election. While independents have run in every general election since Estonia regained its independence in 1991, none has been elected since 1992.

"People have asked questions, for example about the size of the security deposit and which documents need to be submitted, but so far no independent candidate has filed yet," Kirsberg said.

An eligible citizen may nominate themselves, but in order to stand in the upcoming general election will have to make a security deposit in the amount of one month's minimum salary (five months' minimum salary in the case of a European election).

This means that the security deposit is currently €500, as that is the minimum salary agreed on by Estonia's unions and employers for 2019.

Candidates are paid back if they are elected, if they receive votes to the extent of at least one-half of the simple quota in the electoral district, or if the candidates of the political party receive at least 5% of the vote nationally.

Although the deposit isn't unrealistic, most potential candidates will think twice before signing up: no independent candidate has made it into parliament since 1992, not without the backing of either a political party or running on the list of an election coalition.

The latter requires candidates to sign partnership contracts, and to submit their candidacies under the election coalition they have founded.

Independents have achieved considerable vote numbers in the past. For example, Leo Kunnas, a lieutenant colonel of Estonia's army reserve, by now a member of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), got 3,267 votes to his name in the 2011 election, which is impressive even compared to the results of candidates on party lists, but not enough to get a personal mandate and get elected to the Riigikogu.

In 1992 in the first Riigikogu election after Estonia regained its independence, there were 25 independent candidates. The general election of 1995 saw 12 individuals run for a parliamentary mandate without the backing of a political party. In 1999, 19 independents ran, in 2003 there were 16, 2007 saw the lowest number with just seven, followed by a record 32 independents in 2011, and 11 in the last general election in 2015.

Candidates have until 17 January 2019 to register.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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