Who Should Have Power, the Parliament or the President?
The first Constitution of the Republic of Estonia was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 15 June 1920. According to the Constitution, the supreme body was the parliament (the Riigikogu); no position of Head of State (the President) was provided.
Since the second half of the 1920s, several political forces in Estonia started to pursue the reduction of the powers of the Parliament and the establishment of a powerful institution of Head of State. The Assemblies of Farmers (lead by Konstantin Päts) and the organisations of the political movement “Vabadusõjalased” [participants in the Estonian War of Independence] fought for that keenly. The draft proposed by the followers of the political movement “Vabadusõjalased” won the Referendum (in October 1933) and became the second Constitution of Estonia. The fight for power between the then head of government, K. Päts, and the political movement “Vabadusõjalased”, grew more intense. On 12 March, 1934, K. Päts declared a state of national emergency, closed the organisations of the political movement “Vabadusõjalased” and arrested their leaders. Pursuant to the second Constitution, no elections of the parliament or Head of State were organised. For three and a half years K. Päts governed the state without the parliament.
The shift of the political regime of the Republic of Estonia toward authoritarianism was not an exceptional case. This course was characteristic of many European countries between the two world wars.