No. 6




The death of the presidency

  • Igor Gräzin

    Member of the Riigikogu, Estonian Reform Party

Nearly all parties have announced their intention to see the constitution in future contain a principle according to which the president would be popularly and directly elected. This consensus entails but one question: if all parties stand behind their promises with such solidarity, something must be rotten. Ask yourselves whether Estonia really needs a president at all.

A large part of the president’s duties are ceremonial, yet not even these have been executed without twists and tangles – the awards for meritorious service, ambassadorships assigned and not assigned, and even the yearly presidential receptions have been a never-ending source of imbroglio. One of the main duties of the foreign service during the two presidential administrations since restoration of independence, in fact, has been damage control and spinning whatever the head of state has said.

As for the political functions of the president, the most important is undoubtedly the right of suspensive veto – originally intended as a check and a balance by the constitution. Lennart Meri used the veto on 39 occasions. To understand the import of this number, we need to consider the tendency of that president toward, shall we say, a liberal interpretation of law. Considering some of his acts – like closing off the seashore path to the public (the illegality of which move would have been protested to the heavens in Roman law!), or the extremely murky story involving the construction of a personal summer residence – the search for a constitutional or national-minded reason behind use of the veto is a vain one in many cases.

Instead of changing the election procedure, it would be best to consider how to abolish the presidency.

Full article in Estonian