No. 6




The constitutional relationship between the Riigikogu and the government

17 December 2002


RiTo No. 6, 2002

From the standpoint of the relationship between legislature and government, Estonia is overwhelmingly a parliamentary state, inhabiting the same family of nations as Germany, Austria, Italy, Ireland and several Central European countries as well as all of Europe’s monarchies.

The powers of the government and the national assembly are, completely and in the classical sense, separate. Article Four of the constitution states that the functions of the Riigikogu and the government shall be fulfilled on the basis of the principle of balance and separation of powers. Most European countries do not have such a clearly-defined separation of powers.

The distribution of powers set forth in the current constitution has borne itself out superbly. In the more than ten year lifespan of the present constitution, Estonia has seen a series of stable and long-lasting government coalitions. There has been no need for extraordinary general elections. The balance of power, which has ensured at least a basic lease on life for minority governments, has compensated well for any frailty stemming from Estonia’s modest democratic traditions and polarization and fragmentation of political forces. We can go as far as to say that the purviews of the parliament and government represent the best-balanced power-sharing relationship in the constitution. We may conclude that no amendments are necessary in this field.

But we cannot say that there is no room for growth for Estonian democracy or that the relationship between legislature and government should not continue to evolve. Every democratic society in the world has seen a trend toward greater legislative checks on the executive power. This can be engendered here by increasing the responsibilities of the Riigikogu’s committees, and also by instilling a good traditions.

Full article in Estonian