Work in the XIII Riigikogu has been frustrating and almost entirely fruitless, and appears to have been rather an ineffectual waste of time, writes veteran politician Jüri Adams.
I have been elected as a member of four different Riigikogu memberships: the VII Riigikogu (1992-1995) as a candidate on the list of the Estonian National Independence Party (ERSP), the VIII Riigikogu (1995-1999) as a candidate on the joint ERSP-Pro Patria election coalition list, and the IX Riigikogu (1999-2003) as a candidate on the Pro Patria list.
I ran for election to the X Riigikogu on the Pro Patria Union list, but was not elected. I did not run for election to the XI or XII compostions of the Riigikogu. I ran for election to the XIII Riigikogu as a candidate on the Free Party list and once again became an MP.
I am not running in the upcoming elections, and there are two primary reasons for that.
First of all: for health reasons. Some Riigikogu workdays are too long for me, and participating in them is too much for me. The same goes for communicating with voters.
Second: the useful efficiency of being an MP. My memories of working in the VII-IX compositions of the Riigikogu have been very positive. Work in the XIII Riigikogu has been frustrating and almost entirely fruitless, and appears to have been rather an ineffectual waste of time.
The previously established situation (this has been referred to as "rubber stamping") remained unchanged for the past four years as well. This was endlessly criticised, both generally, politically, as well as specifically. I'd like to hope that an upheaval will eventually finally follow as well, but I suppose this will depend on the next compositions [of the Riigikogu].
Nonetheless, there were a few positive developments during the XIII Riigikogu. Meetings of Riigikogu committees once again began to be recorded in minutes to such a degree that now it should be possible again to determine who said what and what positions were presented there. Prior to this, there was a decade or so about which future researchers will lack any opportunity whatsoever to find something out.
But we failed to restore MPs' right to give speeches at plenary negotiations (this is typically only allowed of parliamentary group representatives). In general, an MP is nothing but the obedient slave of the parliamentary group (or, in other words, the leading figures of the party).
All of this is bound together by the system overfunding of political parties that began in 2004 (which essentially constitutes collective theft from the state).
Quite possibly the only positive political change was getting a handle on the practice of decoy ducks (as a reminder: well-known figures ran in local elections, but they "didn't have the right" to begin sitting on local councils). This could be considered first and foremost a political result of the Free Party, although it was not their preferred solution (one or the other, but not serving on both representative bodies at once) but rather the so-called Finnish system (once again allowing an elected individual to serve in the Riigikogu and on a local municipal council at once) that won out.
But generally speaking, democracy in local municipal councils deteriorated, as now, following the "administrative reform," local electoral districts include 25-35 mandates as a rule, which further alienates people from their local government bodies and places a ticking time bomb under our proportional representation system.
One thing that ended positively, bringing peace for some period of time, was the first year's big battle over the draft implementing legislation for the Cohabitation Act, which would have introduced the institution of same-sex marriage to our country and in all likelihood thoroughly divided Estonian society. But how long will this peace last?
I couldn't have ever imagined such terrible "rubber stamping" as occurred in connection with the administrative reform bill. (The implementation of this "reform" nevertheless had some positive consequences, the most signficiant of which was the unification of Setomaa's various parts.) But the last substantial thing that was rubber stamped — namely the implementing act of the Personal Data Protection Act — was quite possibly even worse. The former was done in the Ministry of Finance; they are probably long since used to the fact that the Riigikogu doesn't need to play any role. The latter was done in the Ministry of Justice, which should be the first line of defence for the legal order. This is rather great sign of danger for the future.
The Chancellor of Justice tried to get the Riigikogu to annul as unlawful a large number of automatic penalties and official bans that had amassed over the years, but was blown off.
List of unaddressed issues even longer
Nothing else of significance or particular interest comes to mind. A list of things that have gone sour and that the Riigikogu should have dealt with, but didn't even attempt to, would be a lengthy one. For example, electoral districts, citizenship issues connected to Estonians living abroad, the organisation of the work of the government, the consequences of utilising "universal ministers" (read: ministers not familiar with their own field of work), ministries' division of labour, logging quotas, etc.
This situation drove me crazy and was too much for me. I can't not react, but I don't have the energy to fight all these fights, and there is no hope of breaking through the majority votes of so-called cartel parties.
The primary political and legal battlefield nowadays is not in the Riigikogu, but rather elsewhere. Calls for self-correction within the Riigikogu, if not supported by relevant opinions in society, aren't particularly effective. I'd like to apply my declining old man's abilities there, where they would be of the greatest benefit; I'd rather offer my help as an adviser to the next composition of the Riigikogu.
Editor: Aili Vahtla