No. 6




The Riigikogu’s Voting System and Quora

17 December 2002


RiTo No. 6, 2002

  • Kalle Liebert

    Riigikogu Pro Patria Union faction adviser, master's candidate, Institute of Law, University of Tartu

The public nature of Riigikogu sessions and of voting records is one of the most important foundations of democracy, giving constituents the opportunity of getting information on the work and record of MPs. To better implement the principle of transparency, committee discussions and votes should also be made available, for example by posting them on the legislature’s website.

The principle of secret ballot in the case of appointments of officials as set forth in the constitution can also be considered successful, since it ensures an objective outcome.

Also efficacious is the absence of a quorum – legal acts are passed if they get a majority of yea-votes. These principles have given parliamentary minorities the chance to see their interests become reality and have provided MPs incentive to attend regular sessions. The quorum imposed on extraordinary sessions, on the other hand, gives the majority the possibility of quashing legislation if the quorum is not attained. To resolve this problem, more analysis is necessary. The decision to provide a list of constitutional laws in the constitution was also the right one. These are very essential laws that must be based on a greater consensus than the usual, a condition that is ensured by subjecting these laws to the requirement that they can only be passed and amended by a majority of the total Riigikogu body.

In practice, distinctions between ordinary and constitutional laws has repeatedly resulted in problems and even legal wrangling. The Supreme Court has found that questions in the purview of a constitutional law can be regulated by only that constitutional law.

An ordinary law setting forth a norm that belongs in the purview of constitutional laws is grounds for declaring that norm unconstitutional and null and void.

To avoid problems, ordinary and constitutional laws must be handled separately from the time they are introduced. Amendments to ordinary and constitutional laws must also be introduced separately as bills.

Full article in Estonian