No. 4

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Introductory column by the Editor-in-Chief

  • Aivar Jarne

    Head of the Press Service of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu

During recent months, the Riigikogu has enjoyed the relatively stable support of about one-third of the population. What should the Riigikogu actually do in order to deserve at least a half of the Estonian residents’ approval ofto its activities?

The press, and also the whole ofthe society that whichis influenced by it, clearly attaches a different role to the Parliament from the one it really has. If the Riigikogu acts within the framework of the obligations set upon it by the Constitution, and leads its everyday business, i.e. holds discussions and disputes, adopts legal acts and amendments, the ensuingfollowing reactions of the press will generally be negative. In many democratic countries, the Parliament’s role has been observed to be theone of a performer of a great show in the first place. In order to become attain toa good news story, the Parliament must first satisfy the reader’s interest with some dramatic turn in the course of a long-term show (i.ee.g. a drunk or bloody parliamentarian); second, a colourful statement by some well-known legislator towards another well-known figure would perhaps do; third, some financing or privatisation decision could get the job done, as there is always someone annoyed with these kinds of decisions; and only in thelastone to come place is the passing of a law.

A great problem with parliaments is also certainly alsoconstituted in the fact that unlike the president or government leader at the top of the executive power, the parliament’s voice sounds like a cacophony to the audience. The president or the government leader can be personified, but the parliament cannot. Unlike, for instance the head of state, the parliament will not draw the media’s attention with its everyday work or behaviour. There must be something extraordinary in the activities of the parliament. When the Estonian awakening occurred, the Parliament acted on the frontline of the anti-imperialist struggle in the early 1990s, and it enjoyed a remarkable support from about two-thirds of the population. In 1990, the activities of the Supreme Council were trusted by evenby 69% of the respondents. Now the Parliament has no one to struggle with and no one to resist. What are actually are the Parliament’s options for giving better information about its activities to the public in a the situation where the press has attained a cynical attitude towards the state authoritypower, or, to put it milder, acts in a contemporary manner?

Of course, it would be pleasant if for instance opinion leaders would say something wordsin support of the Riigikogu or parliamentarianism. The viewpoints on the Riigikogu presented by them would then have an impact on the attitudes towards the Parliament of a very great deal of people. Some statements of by opinion leaders are in turn amplified by the media, and such statements may become generally accepted truths. As the commentary to support the European Union by the presidential candidate, Peeter Tulviste, in the this year’s 8May 8th issue of Postimees, or President Lennart Meri’s statement on the topic of methanol victims in the 14 September 14th Päevaleht demonstrate, opinion leaders also present unpopular positions. There is no doubt that there are opinion leaders who would agree to say something words in support of the Riigikogu and parliamentary order – we will only have to find them.

So far, however, we will have perhaps nothing else to do but hope that each MP will perform his or her job even better, at the same time keeping in mind the institution’s image at the same time, and that each journalist will do his or her best to explain the will of legislator’s or the representatives elected by the people representative’s will to the public.

Full article in Estonian

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