Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) has sent for a round of approval a bill that would abolish the bans currently in effect on outdoor political advertising and active campaigning on Election Day. According to Aeg, the current bans are no longer fulfilling their original objective.
"The outdoor advertising ban, which was imposed in 2005, has not reduced election campaign costs or made [the campaign advertising] more meaningful, as was hoped when the ban was introduced," Aeg said. "True, there are no big ads in public during this period, but that is because advertising has first and foremost moved online and onto social media."
The minister stressed that the Chancellor of Justice has repeatedly asked the government and Riigikogu to abolish the ban on outdoor political advertising, adding that the police as an investigative authority has likewise repeatedly highlighted challenges inherent in the application of the ban.
"Legal ambiguity leads to varying practices, and oversight of compliance with the ban is very labor-intensive for the authorities," he said. "A total of 47 requests for explanations regarding the outdoor political advertising ban and 32 reports of potential violations of the outdoor political advertising ban were submitted to the police in connection with the 2019 Riigikogu elections."
Nix Election Day campaign ban too
Aeg is also interested in abolishing the ban on campaigning on Election Day as well.
"This has been in force since 1994 and is outdated, as increasing numbers of people vote early, during th period when active campaigning is allowed," the minister pointed out. "Voters should be subject to a level playing field when voting, and so campaign rules should be as uniform as possible duing the election period. This year, for example, 39.3 percent of those who voted in the Riigikogu elections voted early."
The requirement to leave voters in peace at polling places and within the immediate vicinity thereof would remain in force.
According to the minister, the bans have resulted primarily in the fact that police are left with less time and resources to respond to and investigate serious crimes during the election campaign period.
"If these bans were abolished, police could apply the resources freed up as a result toward fulfilling more important tasks," Aeg said. "Which is why I am glad that I can finally send these pointless and bureaucratic restrictions to the ash heap of history."
The abolishment of the ban on outdoor political advertising as a goal was included both in the coalition agreement and on the current Estonian government's 100-day plan.
Editor: Aili Vahtla