chapter  5
23 Pages

Recruitment of parliamentary representatives in an ethno- liberal democracy: Estonia


Introduction: structure of opportunities for legislators in Estonia The revival of the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu)1 and the emergence of legislative elites came as a consequence of the restoration of the Estonian independence at the beginning of the 1990s,2 a period marked by the peaceful “Singing Revolution,” plebiscites, and referenda. Estonia was an independent state from 1918 to 1940, a parliamentary democracy from 1919 to 1934, and was a pioneer in democratic constitutional provisions for national minorities (Lijphart 1984). The country thus had the richest democratic tradition out of all post-Soviet states upon which to build. From 1920 to 1932, Estonia held five multi-party elections to the Riigikogu, each consisting of 100 legislators who were elected to threeyear terms. The Constitution of Estonia, enacted on 15 June 1920, was “one of the most democratic documents in contemporary Europe” (Arter 1996: 69). Currently, 101 members of the Riigikogu are elected in either 11 or 12 electoral districts, depending on the particular election, and the candidates must be Estonian citizens 21 years of age or older. Although political parties present a national list of electoral candidates, the nomination of a candidate is restricted to one electoral district. The electoral districts vary in size and have ranged anywhere from five to 14 mandates. The seats are allocated in three rounds. In the first round of seat allocation, personal mandates are awarded to those candidates who surpass the Hare quota for the electoral district (calculated for each electoral district by dividing the number of valid votes cast in the district by the number of mandates). In the second round, so-called district mandates are awarded by adding all votes cast for the members of a party in a given district. If the party surpasses the Hare quota, the candidate with the largest share of votes receives a mandate, provided that the party itself gets at least 5 percent of the national vote and that the mandate receiver gets at least 10 percent of the Hare quota. In the third round, the mandates not allocated in the previous two rounds are distributed to the parties (they must have passed the 5 percent threshold) using a modified d’Hondt method. The compensation mandates are distributed relying on the separate rank-ordered lists of candidates, compiled by political parties (Pettai 2004: 830). Over time, the number of personal mandates declined

from 17 in 1992 to 14 in 2011.3 For the same period, the number of compensation mandates gradually declined from 60 to 19 and the number of district mandates steadily increased from 24 to 68 (National Electoral Committee 2012: 33). Political party membership is restricted to Estonian citizens only (§48 of the Estonian Constitution). Since 1999, a political party must have at least 2,000 members, whereas before 1999 it was sufficient to have 1,000 members (Lagerspetz and Maier 2010: 96). Electoral coalitions (apparentements) have been forbidden since 1999. Parliamentary parties receive a considerable amount of money from the state and there are no spending limits on electoral campaigns. As a consequence of the lustration, the corresponding rules required until 2000 that parliamentary candidates sign a statement claiming that they had not actively persecuted others in the Soviet period. On the subject of language requirements, the Estonian law required that parliamentary candidates have advanced proficiency in Estonian. This law, criticized by international organizations as a violation of human rights conventions, was never extensively enforced and was abolished in late 2001 (Mikkel and Pettai 2004: 335-336). Membership in the Riigikogu is a full-time job for a term of four years. From January 2012 the monthly payment for an Estonian Parliament member is €3,380.4 The payment of MPs is linked to the salary of the President of Estonia, so that the Riigikogu member is compensated at 65 percent of the president’s salary. The president of Estonia is paid €5,200, as is the president of the Riigikogu, prime minister and chairman of the Supreme Court. Members of the Riigikogu are prohibited from holding any other state office (§63 of the Constitution). The authority of an MP is suspended upon their appointment as a Cabinet Minister and is restored only after resigning from the Cabinet (§64 of the Constitution). Elections to the 1990 Supreme Council, conducted by single transferable vote (STV), were characterized by the fact that an overwhelming majority of candidates and elected representatives belonged to more than one party or political movement. The Popular Front won at least 41 seats, anti-independence forces at least 26 (including four seats for the Soviet military), and reform communist Free Estonia and its rural allies at least 25 (Taagepera 1993: 176). Since the majority of them had more than one political affiliation (105 deputies had 162 organizational affiliations), we considered it more meaningful to determine their ideological orientation by parliamentary factions founded after election. The entire variety of parliamentary party families available in the Second Republic of Estonia (except for the Conservatives, Right Liberals and Extreme Right) were represented in the 1990 Supreme Council. The Left Liberals and Agrarians comprised the largest party groups. The winner of the 1992 election, conducted under personalized proportional representation (PR), was conservative Homeland (Pro Patria) with 29 seats. They were followed by the left liberal “Secure Home” (a newly established Coalition Party encompassed a part of it) with 17 seats. The Popular Front won only 15 seats; it had lost its function as an umbrella organization by the time of the

election. The 1995 parliamentary election saw Russian minority parties finally entering the Riigikogu and the emergence and success of the right liberal Estonian Reform Party. The elections were won by the list of the Coalition Party and Rural Union (41 seats). The left liberal Center Party (i.e., successor to the Popular Front) was allocated 16 seats in the Riigikogu. The Center Party, having an “image as a representative of the silent majority of ordinary people forgotten by the political establishment” (Lagerspetz and Vogt 2004: 64) and popular among Russian speakers, celebrated a victory (28 seats) in the 1999 elections; however, the president, Lennart Meri, proposed a prime minister from the Homeland (Pro Patria) Alliance (18 parliamentary seats) which then formed a new government with the Reform Party (18 seats) and the Moderates (17 seats). The 2003 Riigikogu elections saw the emergence of a new conservative political party, Res Publica, a party that propagated anti-corruption and political renewal. This new party not only entered the legislature, but also was one of two electoral winners to gain 28 parliamentary seats (the same number of seats was allocated to the Center Party) and the post of prime minister. The newcomer party was joined by the right liberal Reform Party (19 seats) and the Agrarian People’s Union (13 seats) in the government formation. The 2007 and 2011 elections to the Riigikogu witnessed victories of the Reform Party as it won 31 and 33 seats, respectively. Res Publica, after experiencing a meteoric rise in 2003, demonstrated a similarly abrupt fall in the following years and in the end merged with Pro Patria. The new organization, named Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, won 19 and 23 parliamentary seats in 2007 and 2011. The Center Party, with 29 and 26 seats respectively, remained the largest opposition party. In sum, the number of political parties and party coalitions competing in national elections gradually fell from 17 political parties in 1992 to nine in 2011.5 The number of parliamentary parties (electoral lists) decreased from nine in 1992 to four in 2011. These trends were interpreted as a sign of party system consolidation. Some analysts saw “Scandinavianization of the Estonian party system – emergence of at most five to six stable major parties” (Raun 1997: 360) or even the emergence of a cartel party system (Pettai and Kreuzer 1999; Sikk 2003; Mikkel and Pettai 2004). These generalizations have been challenged by the rapid emergence and electoral success of the Res Publica Party. Nevertheless, if we employ the Laakso-Taagepera index, we see an obvious decrease in the effective number of electoral parties from 8.84 in 1992 to 4.78 in 2011. The effective number of parliamentary parties falls from 5.90 in 1992 to 3.84 in 2011. This allows us to conclude that over time the Estonian political party system clearly moved toward consolidation. An aggregate analysis based on political party families shows that the Socialists/Social Democrats and Left Liberals are present in all seven Estonian parliaments. Conservatives and Right Liberals are part of all legislatures from 1992 onwards. Green and ethnic minority parties have been successful in three of seven parliamentary elections. The Estonian political parties have been classified

according to the scheme of Gallagher et al. (2006); the handbooks on political parties by Bugajski (2002) and Szajkowski (2005) were also consulted. The biggest challenge for the coding procedure was classifying the Estonian National Independence Party (ERSP) and the movement “Estonian Citizen” that entered the Riigikogu in 1992. Instead of the terms “nationalistic” or “nationalconservative,” the scheme of Gallagher et al. (2006) uses the categories “conservative” and “extreme right.” Since it foresaw exclusionary policies toward non-citizens among the Russian-speaking population, the ERSP was considered extreme right. The Movement “Estonian Citizen,” founded by a retired US Army lieutenant colonel and the minister of defense in the Estonian government-inexile, Jüri Toomepuu, was aggressively anti-communist and sought to “decolonize” Estonia by repatriating Soviet settlers to Russia. Our decision to code both of these political organizations as “extreme right” is supported by Andres Kasekamp (2003: 401-414), expert on extreme right parties in Estonia, who classifies “Estonian Citizen” and the ERSP before its merger with a more pragmatic Pro Patria as extreme right organizations.