VIKTORIA-LADÕNSKAJA KUBITS Why doesn't the voter always get what they hoped for when they cast their vote?

Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits
Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits.
Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits. Photo: Olga Makina

A year has just passed since the formation of the current government. And quite a few members of parliament have published beautiful pictures with captions along the lines of «a year since taking the oath». Columnist Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits asks and writes what actually happens to an MP during their first year in parliament.

If one were to try to briefly formulate who or what kind of players Estonian politics primarily needs at the moment, two factors come strongly to the fore: expertise and jurisprudence. In other words, an effective politician should now have high-quality knowledge in their field and understand the specifics of formulating legal texts. If a politician does not have the former – substance disappears. If a politician does not have the latter – it is difficult for them to implement their substance.

I'll be honest, there is a shortage of people simultaneously carrying both components in Estonian politics.

In addition, understanding the rules of political gambling is also important, but this is not taught in schools, it only comes with experience. And if the newcomer does not have the first two, during the first year, experienced political players will help the new member of the Riigikogu to land among the classic «pushers of the correct buttons». So how does the departure from the original «I came into politics to» promises happen?

Routine that kills

Before the elections, you watch the debates – the newcomers, who are often labeled as «doping» in political parlance, have a lot of energy, they shine and make promises. A few months after the election, the same fresh person no longer shines so much. The first reason for this is the routine of parliamentary work.

Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of endless meetings: parliamentary group, committee, working group, party board, chapter, department, council, and the great hall. The described list is not final, usually there are even more of these meetings in political life. Every meeting is important, every meeting requires preparation, very often the message and the appearance must be neatened, because the media is also present. The days fill up very quickly, the schedule is packed, there is a long table, talking heads and cookies in front of you. Routine is the first obstacle, the hallmark of overcoming which is «swimming with the political current», from one meeting to another. Gradually, attending a meeting replaces the knowledge of why you need these meetings in the first place. The original political goal becomes blurred.

The Reform Party’s election party at Radisson hotel.
The Reform Party’s election party at Radisson hotel. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

Interest groups that appear immediately

A fresh politician is like tabula rasa, i.e. a blank page for interest groups. There are many interest groups and most of them are looking for a «talking political representative», fresh and credible. There is nothing wrong with the original idea – everyone is looking for representatives, a strong representative in politics is part of the formula for success. But during the first year, the MP suddenly discovers that, for example, the embassies of all countries want them, the precious thing, to come to them and exchange ideas. Is this interesting to the MP? Of course! Is it necessary for a representative of the people? Sure, it broadens their horizons. Does it also take time? Absolutely.

Just like that, new and broad perspectives for the interesting use of time are added to the meetings. The embassies were given here as an example, there are many more interest groups and their interests are much broader. However, the original target is moving further away.

All topics are mixed up

If you notice that your MP has suddenly started talking about forestry or, for example, the Health Insurance Fund, that they have some good advice about the economy, but that the well-being of bees does not leave them cold either, they post comments on their FB page about teachers' salaries and Biden's remarks, doing all of this a lot, mixed up, and right away during the meetings, then the result is here – the target has been lost from the radar.

From this moment on, as a voter, do not expect results anymore, because the newcomer no longer remembers why they entered politics, they have no more time, they have become an important statesperson. Everything around them is so important, much more important than the original goal. They are in a hurry, but there is no time to think about where this speed leads.

What has been described usually happens to newcomers who had no political foundation. And that is what experienced professional political fish need. Ultimately, the newcomer gets stuck in the routine and pushes the right button. They do not ask the questions «but why», but it is explained to them «that this is the only right way».

The party soldier is ready. One can also offer them additional candidacy somewhere, then even their nose will no longer be visible from the routine. However, the strategy and goals remain with those who have been active in politics for many years, who invited this soldier to politics «to do the certain, right thing for the country».

Government press conference.
Government press conference. Photo: Tairo Lutter

How to avoid this and are there any exceptions?

Of course. The formula is described above: a fresh MP should have a clear competence in the field and understand the peculiarities of legal texts. Oh yes, this person should have an unshakeable goal. So unshakeable that routine does not blur it; so unshakeable that during every meeting, interest group, post, application, they can answer whether it is serving this goal or rather stealing it.

This goal and staying focused on it may very well be the most important thing for the current politician, then they can overcome the obstacle course and establish their own strategy instead. A voter who was able to chew through this is lucky to be well represented.