Justice chancellor disagrees with Richness of Life Party

Artur Talvik.

PHOTO: Sander Ilvest

The fact the Richness of Life Party (ERE) was excluded from public broadcaster ERR’s “Valimisstuudio” elections debate is not unconstitutional, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise finds.

The party turned to Madise in early February to check constitutionality of the procedure for covering the elections campaign laid down by ERR’s supervisory board.

The party maintains the organization’s decision not to include them in its elections debate constitutes discrimination and finds different treatment of ERE to be unconstitutional.

ERR’s procedure for covering the parliamentary elections, approved in December last, designates that four 75-minute episodes of the “Valimisstuudio” program will only feature parties that will meet elections with a full list of 125 candidates. ERE, that registered a list of 73 candidates, believes the decision discriminates against the party.

The public broadcaster explained the decision through its obligation to ensure journalistic content and observability in elections debates. ERR wrote in its explanation to the justice chancellor that the debate procedure applies to all television and radio channels, as well as its online news portal, which is why the procedure needs to be treated as a whole. This whole must give all parties that participate in elections a chance to present their positions.

ERE files new inquiry

Member of the board of ERE Artur Talvik said the party is not satisfied with the justice chancellor’s reply and have filed a new inquiry.

“Our question was whether the supervisory board’s decision in terms of who are invited to participate in elections debates on ETV is legally sound and in accordance with the law in a situation where it is based on the criterion of so-called full lists. Because a full list requires a party to come up with €62,500 in bail, we believe such financial restrictions should not serve as basis for preferential treatment, especially in a situation where most parties qualify for hefty support from the state budget. We do not see that this question has been answered by the justice chancellor in her reply, and we believe it clearly reflects the desire of parties and officials to keep newcomers at bay,” Talvik said.

Independent candidate Indrek Tarand turned to then justice chancellor Indrek Teder with an identical complaint before the 2009 European Parliament elections. Teder also found ERR to be within its rights to use different air time and formats in case of different political forces. Ülle Madise shares her predecessor’s position and emphasizes that criteria for participation in programs cannot be arbitrary and must be known to candidates well before lists are presented.