Members of the Riigikogu in Political Crossfire
In which areas of their activity do members of the Estonian Riigikogu focus most? How important do they rank the relations with their party as opposed to their voters, electoral district or private interest groups, and do these activities compete with or complement each other?
Some light on these questions is shed by a survey of the members of the Riigikogu (as well as MPs in the other two Baltic states) carried out in January 2000. As to its scope and subject matter, the survey was the first of its kind in Estonia. It was partly based on similar surveys conducted in the USA and Great Britain and it was part of a wider international project aimed at studying the development of political institutions and the stability of political parties in the Baltic states. The theoretical starting point of the survey is the theory of institutionalism according to which political behaviour, from a comparative point of view, depends first and foremost on the effective political institutions of a country and on the rational choices made by the people within the framework of those institutions. The results of the survey of 71 members of the Riigikogu show that on a comparative level, Estonian MPs are more party-centred in their activities than their Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts. Estonian MPs devote relatively less attention to the concerns of their voters, their constituencies or private interest groups. Across party lines, in Estonia, MPs of the opposition parties appear more inclined to pay attention to the interests of the voters and constituencies, although this result of the survey is less definitive.
Vello Pettai, born 1968, USA; political scientist, B.A., Middlebury College, USA, 1989; M.A. Columbia University, USA, 1993; M.Phil. and ABD, Columbia University, USA, 1997; visiting researcher, European University Institute, Italy, 1999. Work: University of Tartu, department of politology, 1997- lecturer; 1997-1999: representative of the President of the Republic of Estonia to the National Minorities Roundtable; 1995-96 visiting lecturer, University of Tartu, department of politology; vice editor, newspaper “The Estonian Independent”, Tallinn, 1990. Affiliation: Centre for Political Research PRAXIS, chairman of the Board, 2000; European Thematic Network-Political Science, member of the Board 1999-; American Political Science Association 1993-; Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, 1992-, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, 1993-1997.