Culture & Ideas Ideas

Estonia: Power to the people – sort of

8 January 2013
Presseurop
Postimees, Eesti Päevaleht

Estonian citizens have the opportunity – from January to March 2013 – to design new regulations for political activity by intervening directly in the legislative process.

The decision was made at a round table called by President Toomas Henrik Ilves following a series of political and financial scandals. The round table brought together representatives of political parties, civil society, and opinion makers.

Website Rahvakogu.ee (The Citizens' Parliament) went online January 7, and allows Internet users to learn about electoral regulations, existing political parties and to propose amendments. "One does not need to be a political scientist or an lawyer to do this. The documents are presented in the simplest manner," explains Estonian daily Postimees. Proposals concerning five areas regarding the operation, role and financing of political parties as well as on the electoral process, can be sent to the site until the end of January. "The meaning of this initiative is to show that no person alone is as intelligent as the people as a whole," explains Urmo Kübar, head of NENO, the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organisations.

At the end of January, a group of experts will study the different suggestions. In March, several days of discussions are scheduled and about 500 Estonians representing various social categories will be invited to participate. The Estonian government will then take into account the results of these discussions.

But another Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht expresses doubts, saying

Many people are sceptical of this new institution. Several attempts were made in the past to create a permanent link between citizens and those in power, such as TOM [Täna otsustan mina, “Today I Decide”], launched in 2001. These failed.

Yet, according to the paper,

unlike TOM, since replaced by Osale.ee (“Participate”), The Citizens' Parliament is focused on a single issue and this gives rise to the hope that it will not just become another place to sound off.