The work of the Parliament is reflected in the media, legislation, proceeding from reforms, and government statistics. The opening columns, reflecting on the Estonian press, reform statistics and articles in Riigikogu Toimetised (RiTo) No. 3, lead from the image of the Estonian Parliament and the voters’ expectations towards the future plans of RiTo, where words count.
In connection with privatisation, accusations can sometimes be seen in the press against the Parliament as an institution. Treating the work of the Parliament in such manner, without referring to a personal or factional level of decision-making, stenography or voting statistics, is misleading to the public. Although securing executive power is the duty of Parliament majorities, the frequent targeting of the Parliament instead of the ministers by the press, thus putting the former in the position of a political lightning rod, is a double-edged sword. A single media reflection would not be worth mentioning here, if it were not related to the ministries’ fast track legislative activity, providing information to the Parliament, and administrative or political justification of actions in a way which undermines the legitimacy of the Parliament as a legislative institution in general.
Sociological studies show the preferences of the silent majority of the Estonian population relating to the distribution of the state budget and EU integration issues, as well as the hierarchy of people’s private concerns – social facts indicate the prominence of people’s economic and educational worries, which is hindering the development of a citizens’ society.1 These are problems, the solving of which meets the people’s legitimate expectations in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia. When reading studies on demographic, economic and other processes, forwarded to the Riigikogu, a question arises on national priorities and the necessity of a strategic action plan which would outlast election terms. For ten years, Estonia has seen reforms and the building of state, market and civil society institutions. Yet when people’s actual well-being – as judged by the statistics on health, income, quality of living, or birth rate – is declining and alienation is increasing, one should ask – to what end are we using the different capitals of the society?
Karl Marx, the “European ghost”, was in the opinion of many social scientists a man of great influence in the 20th century, and it is nowadays common to talk about capitals, the tangible synonym of which is often power. There are cultural, political, economic, social and other capitals2 that can combine and transform into one another just as heat or wind energy can be transformed into electricity and lighting. The objective of legislation is to increase people’s well-being, and the result can be measured if needed – other capitals can be reduced to the economic one, and a question can be asked: Which groups are in possession of which capital in the society, and who will gain or lose as a result of laws being passed in the Parliament?3
The post-modern paradigm of the Internet age does not allow monopolising of truth(s), and modernist value hierarchies that form the basis for state constitutions have been put to the test. RiTo provides an arena for sieving truths related to the duties of the Parliament. In spite of a pessimistic prognoses, it is worth aspiring for the sufficient regeneration of one’s own cultural, social, economic and political capital even in a small country, even though many of the keys are situated outside the country. What can be done by the Parliament, the central government, a local government or a capable NGO in order to pursue worthwhile goals?
A round-table discussion on RiTo‘s future (December, 2000) resulted in a consensus opinion that the issuing of RiTo justified the risks and that such a journal is needed for the development of Estonian political culture, legislation, and the Parliament. As is characteristic of newly emerged phenomena, there was no such consensus as far as RiTo‘s directions of development were concerned – with one exception. Both the MPs, and the representatives of universities, agreed that RiTo should become a quarterly journal and enter the market. Opinions regarding RiTo’s concept, relation between materials with political and academic orientation, etc. showed plurality of views and interests – the lack of interests is of no interest, as summarised by Prof. Igor Gräzin.4
Advance copies of the current issue of RiTo – which has so far been distributed through government institutions, universities and NGO centres free of charge – will for the first time enter competition on the information market. Since markets operate on the basis of trust and information – words count – the journal needs a collaboration culture (= capital) where one’s word given by phone or e-mail counts as much as a signed contract. On the other hand, we know that globalising political and academic life races through stations/events as an express train, and the planning of time becomes problematic, especially in a small society where there are less doers and more work to do. Time is a valuable asset, but trust and knowledge are worth more on the market. RiTo goes on.
1Public opinion polls relating to the duties of the Riigikogu (legislation, state budget, representing and informing etc.) have been ordered since 1996 – www.riigikogu.ee/osakonnad/msi/research_home.html.
2The topic of social capital is dealt with by R. Ruutsoo in an article in RiTo No. 3.
3How can this be measured? The question is also dealt with in the materials of the ECPRD seminar “Legal and regulatory impact assessment of legislation” (May 21-22, Tallinn) – see http://www.riigikogu.ee/conferences.
4In addition to his duties as lecturer in Estonia and the US, Igor Gräzin acts as Boeard Member and author of RiTo – see also his commentary on US elections as a lesson of new political culture emerging as a result of the IT revolution. The influence of novel media on political communication and parliaments’ information strategies is also dealt with in articles written for RiTo No. 3 by Prof. Marju Lauristin (MP), Arvo Sirendi (MP), Prof. Voldemar Kolga, Andrew Hardie (UK) and Dr. Guenther Schefbeck (Austria) – the latter two are the first foreign authors of RiTo. A.K.