Comments by the Editor-in-Chief Aare Kasemets
The Editor-in-Chief discusses some conceptual issues of the Riigikogu Toimetised (RiTo, for short) and some major topics covered in the RiTo 2. To start with, he characterizes Estonian Parliamentary Democracy as a nice human-faced creature with two dissimilar legs.
The two legs of the Parliamentary Democracy are, first, the political goals arising from people’s ideals and, second, the social-legal reality. The two legs can only step by turns, not both simultaneously. First, problems, interests and goals are discussed, and only then come decisions together with laws and state budgets. It couldn’t be otherwise. It is just important to avoid stumbling.
There are many who try to assist and influence the Parliament in the collective work of guiding society by means of laws – among them the authors of the RiTo who proceed from the aims of the publication. The aims of the RiTo arise from the constitutional tasks of the Riigikogu. These tasks are listed in the Constitution and they can briefly be summarised as six parliamentary functions: 1) law-making and assessing the quality and effects of draft legislation; 2) representing the voters and the Parliament and the respective political parties in domestic and foreign policy debates; 3) monitoring the activities of the executive power and the use of the state budget for the conformity with law; 4) political dialogue, providing advice and decisions for the government; 5) informing the public about the objectives, reasons and possible effects of laws, as well as involving representatives of interest groups in law drafting; 6) alleviating conflicts of social interests through political means.
It is difficult to predict how different voters would react when the Parliament is unable to fulfil properly any of these six functions. The tasks of the Parliament could also be analysed from the point of view of communication management as a process characteristic of the Parliament and involving collecting, interpreting, processing and spreading of information. Which information and when do MPs need to pass decisions, and what do different social groups expect from the Parliament as a producer of laws, speeches and other information? Within the information market, in a competition for people’s attention and recognition, the Parliament’s reputation as the core of shaping the legal system and the quality of its public service that is mediated to the society mostly by government agencies, local authorities, courts and the media (including the RiTo), is important.
The central topics in the present RiTo relate to the trends in the Estonian parliamentary democracy, culture of political communication, civil society, administrative reform, drugs and youth policy, privatisation of Estonian energy production, and clarity of laws. The topics are discussed by both politicians and scholars.
The RiTo pays attention to the studying of the quality of law-making and expectations of the society because the Parliament’s mission is to pursue the rule of law, and the preconditions for this are reliable institutions and political culture where all bearers of state power, including the Parliament, must observe laws in fulfilling their duties, and the laws are equally applicable all to who fall under their jurisdiction2. In order for the law to be effective, it must be in conformity with social facts and values. Therefore, the purpose of the sectionResearch and Opinions in the RiTo is to build an academic bridge (dialogue) between the political choices and the changing needs of the society. Under the section Third Sector and the State Power, the RiTo also provides a channel for NGOs to pursue such a dialogue.
As the printed version of the RiTo is published only twice a year, the Editor-in-Chief warmly recommends the Internet version of the RiTo, which now includes also the section RiTo Forum. You can send relevant commentaries or short articles in Estonian, English, German, French or Russian, equipped with references and links, via e-mail to the address RiTo@riigikogu.ee. Preparation of the third issue of the RiTo has already begun – on the basis of the proposals that the editors have received until now, the topics to be covered in the RiTo 3 are relations between Estonia and the EU, instruments to guarantee separation of powers, law-making, economic policy, and civil society.
A civil society in a market economy is also a consumer society – the Editor-in-Chief hopes that the first parliamentary journal in Estonia will find readers and contributors in the information market.
Aare Kasemets, born 1963, sociologist, studied at the Estonian Agricultural Academy 1983-87 and the University of Tartu 1988-93, MA studies in sociology of media 1995-97. Work: 1994-95 adviser of the Riigikogu Economic Committee; 1995- head of the economic and social information department of the Riigikogu Chancellery, 1996- correspondent of the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation. Editor-in-Chief of the Riigikogu Toimetised since 1999. Member of the Estonian Sociologists Union, member of the Board of the Network of Estonian Non-Profit Associations and Foundations.