Jõks: Does the president have the right to judge candidates for minister? ({{commentsTotal}})

Attorney Allar Jõks.
Attorney Allar Jõks. Source: Hanna Samoson/ERR

In a parliamentary state, the president is not involved in the formation of a government, which is why they generally lack the right to reject a candidate for minister in connection with, for example, political convictions, writes attorney and former Chancellor of Justice Allar Jõks.

Would it be a constitutional crisis if the president were to block any names in the list of government members submitted by the candidate for prime minister?

This would be precedent, not a crisis. In this case, the government would enter office without a full configuration. There is nothing dramatic in this, as the prime minister can with their orders determine the order of the substitution of ministers. It is the same way things happen when the Riigikogu issues a motion of no confidence against a minister. A minister against whom a motion of no confidence passes is dismissed from their office immediately. In such a case, the prime minister with their orders delegates the dismissed minister's tasks to another minister until a new minister is appointed.

Does the president have the right at all to weigh the suitability of a minister, or are they a rubber stamp?

Were the president elected by the people (as proposed in the coalition agreement), in that case they should be actively involved in the formation of a government, in the name of the "will of the people."

In a parliamentary state, however, the president does not participate in the formation of a government. As a result, they generally do not have the right to reject a candidate for minister in connection with, for example, political convictions.

While the law does not set out requirements for ministerial candidates, this does not mean that the president lacks the right to consideration altogether.

This comes from the president's role as defender of the Constitution and their oath of office, "to faithfully perform my duties with all of my abilities and to the best of my understanding, for the benefit of the people of Estonia and the Republic of Estonia." As a result, under extraordinary circumstances, the president retains the right to reject as minister an individual who, for example, is not a citizen of the Republic of Estonia, who has been convicted of a crime, or who is a threat to Estonia's security.

Were the president not to have the right to reject such a candidate, they would be violating their oath of office, as appointing such a candidate minister would not be to the benefit of the people or Republic of Estonia.

While the law does not set out requirements for ministerial candidates, it is self-evident that a minister should possess high moral standards and the abilities required of ministerial work. In order to ascertain this, public hearings of ministerial candidates could be arranged in the Riigikogu, as suggested by the State Reform Foundation. This wouldn't necessarily require changes to law, but rather could become an integral part of political culture.

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This piece first appeared on Allar Jõks' Facebook page and was reproduced with the author's permission.

Editor: Aili Vahtla



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