Russian citizens are about to lose their right to vote in Estonian municipal elections

Russian citizens are about to lose their right to vote

The ruling party Isänmaa and the opposition party Ekre want voting rights removed from all citizens of third countries. The prime minister’s party would be satisfied with only Russians and Belarusians.

TALLINN 140,000 citizens of so-called third countries, i.e. countries outside the EU or the Schengen area, live permanently in Estonia. Half of them are Russian.

In addition, more than 60,000 people live in the country who, as a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union, do not have the citizenship of any country. Stateless (you switch to another service) many are of Russian background.

Until now, all of them have had the right to vote in Estonian municipal elections, regardless of citizenship.

The Russian war of aggression and the parliamentary elections to be held in three months have changed the situation. The majority of Estonian parliamentary parties want the right to vote removed at least from the citizens of Russia and Belarus.

– That [äänioikeus] threatens the security of our country, says the chairman of the parliamentary group of the Prime Minister’s Party Reform Party Mart Võrklaev In an interview with .

However, the Reform Party wants the loss of voting rights to apply only to citizens of Russia and Belarus and not to other foreigners. Moreover, it would be a temporary measure that would last until the end of the war in Ukraine.

The ruling party Isänmaa and the opposition conservative People’s Party Ekre consider this too silly. They would like to permanently remove the right to vote from all citizens of countries outside the EU and the Schengen area.

– If someone wants to have a say in matters concerning Estonia, let them learn the Estonian language and apply for citizenship, Ekre’s vice president Mart Helme recently told (you are switching to another service) For the Estonian Public Radio.

The center, which benefits from the votes of the Russians, opposes

In the last municipal elections in 2021, approximately 30,000 Russian citizens exercised their right to vote. The votes of the Russians have carried the center party to overwhelming election victories in the capital, Tallinn, for twenty years.

So, as expected, the Center Party opposes removing Russians’ right to vote. According to the party, the loss of the right to vote also punishes decent taxpayers, who are Russian citizens mainly as a result of practical choices made after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

– By no means all citizens of Russia and Belarus support the war in Ukraine, reminds the Russian-born member of parliament of the center Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski.

According to him, the Russians living in Estonia today feel rejected anyway.

– After the start of the war, many legislative proposals have been made in Estonia, the message of which is that you are second-class people who cannot be trusted, says Jufereva-Skuratovski.

– This is a dangerous message in terms of the unity of society.

As one solution to the situation, Jufereva–Skuratovski suggests better opportunities for obtaining Estonian citizenship. For example, the language proficiency requirement could be relaxed from the current one From level B2 to A2 (you switch to another service).

The Constitutional Court threatens

If the law restricting the right to vote in municipal elections is approved with the votes of the reform party, Ekre and Isänmaa, it may have one more twist on the way.

Chancellor of Justice of Estonia Ülle Madise namely, considers the plans unconstitutional.

– The Constitution is very clear on this point. To be a candidate in any election, one must have Estonian citizenship, but the right to vote belongs to all permanent municipal residents, Madise tells .

He estimates that he will have to take the case to the Supreme Court, which also acts as the Constitutional Court in Estonia, if necessary.

You can discuss the topic on Friday 25.11. until 11 p.m.