Top lethargic Riigikogu deputy discovered

Riigikogulaste aktiivsus. PHOTO: Allikas: riigikogu

Naturally, the dear reader knows next to nothing about Aare Heinvee – he is the most sluggish of all in Estonian parliament. Vividly, Mr Heinvee’s case serves to show how little attendance of sessions really means. Namely, Mr Heinvee is an ardent sessions attendee, second only to Rein Aidma. 

The easiest way to fool the Riigikogu computer is by simply playing «being present». Enough to show up for the morning session, get registered, and thereafter one may sit in his office or leave the house altogether.

This Friday, Chancellery of the Riigikogu panicked bad, as it turned out that for a very long time they have fed the public false information regarding attendance at voting. «Regrettably, at the moment the statistics at the Riigikogu website do not reflect all data correctly,» said the press service. «Chancellery of the Riigikogu is busy searching out the error.»

While the right data is not there, we have to do with what the Riigikogu forwarded up to Friday.

For the sake of equality, I only undertook to compare the 62 deputies who have been members of this set since its beginning i.e. starting April 2011. When doing a chart in category «the least», the names aren’t usually repeated. Except for one – Mr Heinvee (Reform Party) is firmly in top five. In the interview added, he does admit he doesn’t like the job.

For some reason, the most listless at Riigikogu are members of factions – thus, among those least likely to vote, one finds a whopping seven IRL and/or Reform Party members. Till spring, IRL was in the coalition. The four who took the floor the least are all Reform Party. In the top ten most quiet in their seats are Reform Party and IRL people only.

True, due to their status, those in opposition like to stand out more and to hold speeches – while the coalition are in power anyhow and aren’t asking too many questions.

Among those absent with and without reasons, opposition does rank among top doers. Still, the record holder is the squirrel Igor Gräzin: by last week, he’d been missing 54 times with a reason and 35 without.

Regarding that, former Riigikogu member Silver Meikar says being absent for no reason is a sign of remarkable laziness, as all it would take is sending an e-mail to chancellery about a fictitious event and the reason would be there. «One can always find a reason,» said Mr Meikar. «One just says there was some meeting and one just couldn’t attend the session.» That will do. Being absent does not include being sick or on mission abroad – these come under separate category.

The weightiest indicator of a deputy’s activeness is deemed to work at committees, but regarding that the Riigikogu reveals no official statistics. Still, we get some understanding of committee work by the amount of bills initiated or, what’s more, conducted by deputies – these are the bills that a deputy will undertake to prepare. When it comes to preparing bills, Centre Party people are the most passive; a reason might be that the opposition is not too prone to trust the coalition in committees – who knows what they sneak in there.

When it comes to ways to measure input by deputies, former and current Riigikogu members do differ; even so, they agree that if an individual is near the top on all «the least» charts, he has a problem.

Marek Strandberg, in the previous Riigikogu membership as a green, asked how could Mr Heinvee be among those who voted the least while he’s been such a diligent attendee. «How does he explain the phenomenon?» asked Mr Strandberg, amused. «Perhaps he’s afraid to vote at all? In the parliament, somebody does have to represent those who cannot decide. Maybe he’s representing those who never vote for the Riigikogu?»

According to Mr Strandberg, just counting the attendance will yield a very misleading result, and other indicators have thus to be also considered.

According to the earlier Reform Party deputy Silver Meikar (soc dems)it is altogether possible that a person shows up at the big hall at the beginning of the first session and registers to be present. «After that, he may sit in the hall and not participate in voting,» added Mr Meikar. «One may also leave and have a cup of coffee. Or do whatever you want. The next attendance check of the same day may only happen if there’s a vote that requires a majority of the membership.»

According to Mr Meikar, there are the diligent ones at Riigikogu who take the floor rarely in the big hall but toil hard at committee. «As a rule, he’d also be the one responsible for the proceeding of a bill – that’s a weighty indicator,» he added. «The committee’s differ as well. For instance, the foreign affairs committee has very few bills and even these ate to the tune of «entering an agreement with Nauru». Meanwhile, the social affairs committee led by Margus Tsahkna has very many bills.»

According to Mr Meikar, if the amount of bills is small or near zero it shows the individual is not engaged at the committee.

In Riigikogu, lots of so-called political broilers come across as very active as they cannot even imagine doing anything else. «For them, this is the only output in life,» said Mr Meikar. «The issue is, whose interests are they representing and whose orders are they obeying.»

Mr Meikar said few Riigikogu members are as honest as Mr Heinvee to admit they find themselves in a wrong place.

«Rather, Riigikogu much more abounds with people who have convinced themselves that they are in the right place, that they are good party soldiers and do a good job,» added Mr Meikar. «If able to look at themselves from a distance, they’d realise they are in the wrong place.»

But then the Riigikogu also features the cynics whose goal is to serve the party as thank-you for the good salary. The interests of the state, for them, are secondary. «They have the rather business relationship approach,» is how Mr Meikar would characterise such people.

According to Ene Ergma (IRL), a long-term President of the Riigikogu, she had two kinds of feelings towards deputies who took the floor and/or held speeches at the parliament.  

«When I hear some deputy say the same thing all the time, I sometimes do think oh I wish he’d stay quiet,» admitted Ms Ergma. «Has anybody even analysed what they are talking about?»

According to Ms Ergma, in any biome there evolves a certain division: some deputies, she claims, are of low activity, others are reasonably active, while some are hyperactive.

As assessed by the non-faction Riigikogu member Aivar Riisalu (IRL), work in committees makes for about 90 percent of the job. «What happens in the big hall is getting high.» In his vision, Riigikogu is like an infantry company: a tenth are the seasoned veterans who lead the whole thing; 30 percent are trying to do as these do; the remaining 30 are shooting in the air to look like the others. And, according to Mr Riisalu, the remaining 30 percent are sitting at the bottom of the trench, trembling and green in the face, calling upon their Mother and wondering why they have to be in a war.

IRL faction member Juku-Kalle Raid who left Riigikogu in March does not even now Aare Heinvee is in the parliament. According to Mr Raid, Mr Heinvee’s outwardly active attendance of the meetings rather reveals he is not doing much at all. «If you are doing something, the works often takes you outside the house,» explained Mr Raid. «It is absolutely impossible to sit at sessions the whole time and claim you are some effective guy.»

Mr Raid said there are these brainless beyond measure sessions at Riigikogu, attending which would be mental suicide. «I’d especially call to mind the intentional delays and the like,» he added. «I remember when there was, let’s say, some second reading of some bill and then somebody came up and starting blabbing about who knows what – of course you stand up and leave at goo of that kind.»

Mr Raid has been told the funny stories regarding Riigikogu members some decade ago whose only utterance was a plea to please close the window because of the terrible draft. «Or the announcement that the shoe-shining machine ran out of polish.»