The fruits of the Estonian parliamentary culture are ripening
The latest Riigikogu Toimetised panel discussion, where the representatives of the factions of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel (Estonian Free Party), Jürgen Ligi (Estonian Reform Party), Jaak Madison (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Marianne Mikko (Social Democratic Party), Mart Nutt (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union) and Toomas Vitsut (Estonian Centre Party) discussed parliamentary culture, took place on 19 April.
Mart Nutt: In parliamentarianism, Estonia has chosen the way of Central European political culture, and not the way of North European political culture. The government parties are using the “road roller” – the bills initiated by the opposition are usually defeated, even when they coincide with the initiatives of the government. The expert group at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu should be reinforced so that it could provide expertise to the members of the Riigikogu.
Jürgen Ligi: I believe many of the members of the Riigikogu would not know how to use a personal assistant. I am convinced that political parties must be sufficiently financed, so that they could train and prepare their members. Members of parliament also need experience – they need life experience, they need education and they also need the ability to cope by themselves. Secondly, during those six months the opposition should never misuse the moments the government is engaged in an international mission. But another thing is that the country must not stand still either.
Andres Herkel: In the 1990s, the parliament had a central role in Estonian politics. From then on, it has step by step turned into a rubber stamp, and the work and the work habits of the parliament have become marginalised. All that was important has been transferred to the government. Unfortunately the new parliament, where six parties are represented, has not managed to establish itself sufficiently in regard to the initiatives coming from the government, or taken initiative in shaping politics. First of all this depends on the MPs who belong to the coalition.
Marianne Mikko: We could be like the Nordic Countries also in political and parliamentary culture. When I landed in the Riigikogu after spending five years in the European Parliament, I could not understand how a member of the parliament in a parliamentary state can do high-quality work when they do not have a personal assistant. To whom is it useful? Let us put it directly: it is useful for the executive power that we do not manage things.
Jaak Madison: We all have different voters. All political parties have agreed upon common foreign policy and defence policy. As regards the quality of bills, it clearly makes no sense for the opposition to waste time or financial resources on in-depth analyses of bills if it is known beforehand that these bills will not be passed anyway. The main idea of it all is that you can show the public that you have defended the interests of your voters.
Toomas Vitsut: It is not possible to change the political culture by a command, it has to come from a need. Let me remind you of the 1930s, when it was said about our parliament that they were only fighting all the time. And it resulted in President Päts establishing the state of emergency; the silent era started. The other extreme end of the scale is what we can also see in old Europe – it is tried to reach a consensus in any case, things are discussed endlessly, the process of making decisions is ineffective. It seems to me that at the moment we are in an optimal state, that the decisions which are really necessary for the country are made by consensus.