Th, 1.06.2023
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Hannes Astok: the gloom of a cake gone bad

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Photo: Margus Ansu / Postimees

Liberal world view is no licence to counterfeit, cheat and steal – not the cake, nor the plate, nor votes, writes Reform Party member Hannes Astok.

For a Reform Party member, picking up the morning paper now tends to cause heart trouble. Not that I am one to be easily agitated. Still, the gloomy news brought by each new day, regarding to our inner elections, are beginning to rob me of sleep.

So how can it be that the cake ordered for elections, the Big Day of democracy, has already gone bad? Was the dough kept in jars where bugs crept in? Was the cream stored in a hot room? Maybe the confectioner had his/her hands unwashed? Or – even worse – were the recipe and rules of making it totally ignored?

To put the reader in remembrance: in Reform Party, the board may be elected with slips of paper, at general assembly, or using a computer and the intranet called Oravavõrk (squirrel net). As such, voting via web is fine indeed, as all may not be able to participate at general assembly.

Oravavõrk may be accessed by ID card, Mobile-ID, username-password and Facebook account. Thus there exist a totally secure and available-to-all means to vote over the net – ID card and Mobile-ID. User name and Facebook accounts are good enough to read the news posted over the net, yet highly unsecure as related to identify voters. And that is exactly what happened. Creating, changing and misusing people’s user names and passwords, office staff was able to vote for others – and now, the legality and lawfulness of the entire election is under doubt.

I am especially worried by the dishonesty of the bakers. Reform Party has 17 regions to it. The committee lead by Väino Linde has done a good job and identified, thus far, at least three regional development managers creating false Oravavõrk accounts for party members – and voted via those. Which means that, as it stands, every sixth development manager is a crook.

Let us picture the following: at Reform Party development managers summer get-together, Ott, Taimi and Kristel sit together in sauna. «I found a fun trick how to vote for my chief,» says Taimi throwing the water. «Wow! Do tell us, too!» begs Ott. «Just a moment, I’ll get us some more beer, before you do,» asks Kristel. The latter perhaps explaining why Kristel cannot remember how she arrived at the idea of false accounts.

But somehow I cannot believe it was that simple. Bootlicking the regional boss may indeed be an incentive, promising promotion, but to knowingly go for false votes would take exceedingly loose morals or very strong directives. Do it once, and we may deem it loose morals. But thrice? And all over the land? I am reminded of the man who stabbed his wife and told the court that he was peeling potatoes, the wife slipping on the peels and falling on the knife. Fifteen times in a row.

Neither am I willing to believe that Reform Party does somehow land on the worst development managers, with remarkably loose morals and a total lack of honour and ability to feel shame – even if thus shown, statistically. Rather, it seems to point to a systemic approach or a systemic error. Which? I don’t know.

State e-elections reliable

In spite of my home party’s poor intranet elections solution, let’s not throw away the fridge and the plate – with the cake gone bad. The Estonian e-elections system is secure, properly tested and audited. And should certain political powers wish to flush it down the toilet together with the Reform Party debacle, then that is not statesmanlike.

Some internet commentators have wondered why Reform Party, well supported via state budget, has not created a secure inner e-elections system. True: creating a secure system is expensive. It has been suggested that the state elections committee might organise party elections as well. A good idea – yet weak in the sense that the state elections committee is not an enterprise organising elections for all, for fair pay.

However, we might think about a good IT company, knowing its trade, offering secure, audited and ID card/Mobile-ID based internet-elections service to political parties, apartment associations, or companies with a large number of small shareholders. I am quite serious: as larger apartment associations often have difficulties with their general meetings, minutes and elections.

Liberal world view is no licence to counterfeit, cheat and steal – not the cake, nor the plate, nor votes. Rather, for me, liberal worldview means the right to own up to mistakes made, to continue being renewed, purged and better.

Why steal jam

The recent party board elections were neither honest nor transparent. With 39 doubtful votes in Lääne-Viru County, at least eight in Võru County and over 20 in Viljandi County, then close to 70 voters make almost one tenth of all participants in e-elections. This may significantly alter the voting results. Party chairman Andrus Ansip did indeed claim that the 39 Lääne-Viru votes were given to him by one and the same person, but this does not sound convincing. The person linked to fraud may have said whatever seemed good. I really hope then neither the chairman nor any other are able to bind voters and their votes; therefore, such statements ought to be avoided.

To proceed, the existing Reform Party voting systems should be audited, both the internet and «paper» one. The outcome will be ugly, but at least we will be wiser and other parties may also learn from it. Thereafter, a new e-elections system should be acquired or rented, and new transparent and secure board elections organised. With only ID cards and Mobile-IDs used, plus the paper slips.

The new elections must not be overly rushed, but it makes no sense to snail it for two long years. I believe that an exceptionally large number of squirrels would voluntarily participate at elections, this time around. And the new board would not have to keep trying to prove its legality.

Consuming a cake gone bad, inevitably a really sick feeling is experienced. Thus, every indecisive day that now goes by endangers the health of both Reform Party and Estonian politics as a whole. In the name of health, the kitchen should now thoroughly be cleansed, all contaminated food discarded, all hands washed... So bakers will be bold, next time, to come forth with the cake and face the eater.

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