The Use of Steamroller Tactics in State Budget Discussions, 1998–2005
Coalition parties in the Estonian parliament have been accused on numerous occasions of using so-called steamroller tactics to push through their bills or amendments while pushing aside the bills or amendments of opposition parties without any debate. The aim of this article is to provide an assessment of whether steamroller tactics have actually been used in the Estonian parliament.
To fulfil this goal, eight different state budgets (years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005) are studied. During the drafting of these state budgets four different governments held office and thus there were four different coalitions in the Estonian parliament. Two of the governments were majority governments – those of Mart Laar (between the years 1999–2002) and Juhan Parts (between the years 2003–2005) – and two were minority governments – those of Mart Siimann (between the years 1997–1999) and Siim Kallas (between the years 2002–2003). Analysis focuses on how many amendments were made by the coalitions and the oppositions separately during the drafting of these budgets. This makes it possible to measure the difference between the so-called success rate of coalition and opposition amendments. If a large difference is detected, it is possible to say that steamroller tactics have been used during the drafting of the state budget.
If it becomes apparent that there have been instances of steamroller tactics in the Estonian parliament, further analysis is needed. It is not possible to determine through the use of the quantitative method whether opposition parties may have knowingly proposed a large number of amendments to be taken into consideration. To assess this possibility, the number of amendments made by opposition parties is divided by the number of mandates each opposition party has had in the parliament. It is thus possible to see if the results vary between different opposition parties and different years, and recognize any potential anomalies.
Third, different coalitions are analysed in the article. As minority governments cannot technically use steamroller tactics (they do not have the necessary majority) an analysis was performed to find out whether there is a difference between the success rate of opposition amendments during majority and minority governments.
The findings of the analysis confirm that steamroller tactics have indeed been used in the Estonian parliament during the drafting of budgets for the years 2000–2005. The analysis of minority/majority governments supports the claim that steamroller tactics have been used and even by a minority government (during the drafting of the state budget for the year 2003). The analysis of the number of amendments put forward by the opposition and the number of mandates held by opposition parties in the parliament point to an anomaly – during the drafting of the state budget for years 2001 and 2002 the Estonian People’s Union introduced an unusually large number of amendments.