No. 5




Local elections in the post-independence period

14 June 2002


RiTo No. 5, 2002

  • Jaan Pöör

    Member of the Riigikogu, Estonian People's Union

In the Soviet local council elections, people voted for pre-approved candidates in one-seat districts. The ratification of a declaration of restoration of independence in 1988 allowed a direction to be taken toward renewing local governments.

On August 8, 1989, the Supreme Soviet adopted a decision of intent to carry out administrative reform in the Estonian SSR. This decision foresaw reforms lasting from 1990-1994 that would decentralise the power of the people within the republic, clearly separate national and local power, and redraw the lines of territorial governance.

The local elections of 1989 cannot be termed free and democratic; they were transitional elections that opened the door to individuals previously denied the right to participate fully in local affairs. The restoration of the local government system lay ahead. Many local figures saw this as their calling and declared candidacy for council seats for parishes. For the first time in a long time, people without a communist past could take the helm on local councils.

Statistics from subsequent local elections (1993, 1996 and 1999) show that the number of candidates has kept on growing, and thus the number of people who want to actively take part in local development.

For the local elections scheduled for October 20, parliament adopted a new law on local council elections. The biggest change is that election unions were discontinued, placing a larger responsibility on parties. There is no reason to think that the number of candidates will be much fewer, but rather that there will be a shift towards more clarity. Parties will be forced to be more well-developed and open to voters, who will in turn have a better image of the party they are affiliated with.

This autumn’s elections are the fifth elections after the end of the occupation period’s mandatory and rigged elections. Transition processes from one state to another take place over six periods.

Full article in Estonian