No. 5

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The Tenth Anniversary of the Constitution

  • Aivar Jarne

    Head of the Press Service of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu

Many events during the restoration of independence era are worthy of remembrance and commemoration, but three have proved to be chief among them. They are closely tied with one another and it would be wrong to view them separately.

Of course one of these is the restoration of independence on August 20, 1991. This date ties in directly with the constitution, since the second paragraph of the decision to restore independence states that a Constitutional Assembly would be formed to draft a constitution for referendum, with its members picked by the Supreme Council and the Congress of Estonia.

The second key moment was the ratification of the new constitution in June 1992, which along with monetary reform gave a major impetus toward freeing Estonia from the Soviet legacy. With more than 91% approval, the nation gave notable recognition to the constitution as well as to its creators.

Three months after the referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections with a 68% turnout put the final seal on the establishment of the newly independent state. The foundation for sovereignty had been created and consolidation of the nation continued on its natural course.

One of the main themes of this issue of RITO is the Estonian constitution, which celebrates 10 years this June 28. This length of time is a good one to look back as well as ahead. Two large works on the constitution will be published this year. There have been past constitutional retrospectives as well. In 1937 an attractive volume entitled The Constitution and the National Assembly appeared; dedicated to the constitution of 1937, it spoke of earlier ones as well. And 1997 saw the publication of a thick comprehensive work, The Constitution and the Constitutional Assembly.

The articles give an overview of the media coverage of the work of the Constitutional Assembly and the constitutional debate in 1991 and 1992. It becomes readily apparent with what enthusiasm and expertise the man on the street followed these events alongside the experts, politicians and journalists. Naturally, all opinions on the constitutional assembly’s work and its members were not positive ones. A veritable Babel of opinions prevailed, with politicians and experts generally left to defend the constitution-in-progress and the work of the Assembly, and the public to criticise it. The referendum results echoed favourably through the media, but not for long. The presidential and general elections lay a few months ahead, attracting all of the media’s attention.

The Estonian people showed considerable perseverance, wisdom and civic-mindedness ten years ago. Estonia got a constitution that has remained unchanged for ten years. It gives us hope that the principles enshrined in the constitution will pass much more than just this milestone.

Full article in Estonian

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