INDREK TEDER The right to vote for citizens of the evil empire in Estonia is not conclusively written into law

Indrek Teder
, attorney-at-law
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Photo: Postimees.ee
  • Citizenship – the link with the state – is not just a formal criterion.
  • Also on a completely formal approach, we can see that this right to vote is not absolute.

​Probably in the near future, an answer will have to be found to the question of whether a citizen of the aggressor state Russia, who resides permanently in the territory of the respective municipality, can elect the representative body of the municipality in Estonia, attorney-at-law and former chancellor of justice Indrek Teder writes.

To begin with, let's take a look at the section governing it in the Constitution.

Section 156: «The representative body of a municipality shall be the council which shall be elected in free elections for a term of four years. The term of the mandate of a council may be shortened by a law in relation to a merger or division of municipalities or the inability of a council to act. Elections shall be general, uniform and direct. Voting shall be secret. In elections of municipal councils, persons who reside permanently in the territory of the municipality and have attained sixteen years of age have the right to vote, under conditions prescribed by a law.»

It is also important not to forget that a municipality is not an entity separate from the Estonian state.

Also when taking a completely formal approach, we can see that the right to vote is not absolute, but the Constitution explicitly states that eligible persons have it under conditions prescribed by law. Consequently, laws can indeed establish conditions. It is also important not to forget that a municipality is not an entity separate from the Estonian state. Both the Estonian Constitution and other laws apply to all municipalities. Additionally, consideration must be given to Section 1 of the Constitution (real sovereignty) and Section 2: Estonia is politically a unitary state wherein the administrative division of its territory shall be provided by a law.

However, what exactly to prescribe by a law, what conditions to provide for limiting the right to vote of non-citizens is a matter of decision of the legislator. Right is subjective and depends on the person. If there is no person, there is no right either. The coverage of the Estonian Constitution is wide. What arises from Section 156 is a pragmatic norm.

Citizenship – the link with the state – is not just a formal criterion. It is a direct link, rights and duties arise from citizenship, which in the case of a person with Russian citizenship means the right to elect the president of the aggressor state, its so-called parliament, and in the case of a male person of the relevant age, the obligation to go and serve in the Russian army. And, alongside that, the right to elect the representative body of a municipality in the Republic of Estonia. Somehow like the new party KOOS, or is KOV [abbreviation for municipality in Estonian – ed.] somehow United Russia?

Since the Constitution explicitly provides the possibility to establish conditions by law, in my opinion, it would be highly questionable and strange to amend the Constitution. A sensible norm would be a change in law. I look forward to the debate over the norm, although I do not rule out that KOVs will be elected as usual.

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