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POLITICS OF ESTONIACreated by: Benedict Gombocz
Estonia in brief Location: Northern Europe, bordering Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea, and Gulf of Riga. Official name: Republic of Estonia (Eesti Vabariik) Capital (and largest city): Tallinn Official language: Estonian* Recognized regional languages: Swedish Demonym: Estonian*Võro and Seto in southern Estonia are spoken alongside Estonian; Russian remains unofficial language in Ida- Virumaa and Tallinn, owing to Soviet program advancing mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia in post-war era.
Geography of Estonia Estonia is bordered by Latvia (343 km) to north and Lake Peipus and Russian Federation to east (338.6 km). Across Baltic Sea, Sweden lies in west and Finland lies in north.
Religion in Estonia Less than one-third of Estonia’s population declared themselves as believers in a religion; of those, most are Protestant (Lutheran) and Russian minority is Eastern Orthodox. According to 2000 census, only 29.2% of population regarded themselves to be affiliated with a religion.
St. Nicholas Russian OrthodoxChurch and Baltic Cathedral, Tallinn
Estonia’s membership in worldorganizations Member of European Union, Eurozone, NA TO and OECD.
Government of Estonia Government (valitsus): Parliamentary republic President (Eesti Vabariigi President): Toomas Hendrik Ilves (independent until 1 January 2007; now SDE) Prime Minister (Eesti Vabariigi peaminister): Andrus Ansip (RE) Parliament speaker: Ene Ergma (IRL) Current coalition: (RE, IRL) Legislature: Riigikogu
Riigikogu Estonia’s unicameral parliament, through which all big state-related questions pass. Apart from approving legislation, it designates high officials, including PM and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and elects (either by itself, or if necessary, along with representatives of local government with broader electoral college). Also approves important foreign treaties inflicting military and proprietary responsibilities, change laws, and so on; confirms budget introduced by government as law and controls executive power.
Parliamentary parties Estonian Reform Party (Eesti Reformierakond, RE) Estonian Centre Party (Eesti Keskerakond, K) Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica (Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit, IRL) Social Democratic Party (Sotsiaaldemokraatlik Erakond, SDE)
Non-parliamentary parties Estonian Christian Democrats (Erakond Eesti Kristlikud Demokraadid, EEKD) – formerly Estonian People’s Union (Eesti Kristlik Rahvapartei, EKR) Estonian Greens (Erakond Eestimaa Rohelised, EER) People’s Union of Estonia (Eestimaa Rahvaliit, ER) – later blended with Estonian Patriotic Movement (Eesti Rahvuslik Liikumine, ERL) into Conservative People’s Party of Estonia Estonian United Left Party (Eestimaa Ühendatud Vasakpartei, EUP; Объединённая левая партия Эстонии, Obedinënnaja levaja partija Estonii; OLPE) Estonian Independence Party (Eesti Iseseisvuspartei, EIP) Russian Party in Estonia (Vene Erakond Eestis, VEE) – blended into Social Democratic Party on 12 January 2012.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves Born 26 December 1953 in Stockholm, Sweden; his parents were Estonian fugitives. Fourth and current President of Estonia since 9 October 2006. Ex-diplomat and journalist; served as leader of Social Democratic Party during 1990s and subsequently as member of European Parliament. Was elected to presidency by electoral college on 23 September 2006; he was sworn in on 9 October 2006. Was raised in the United States in Leonia, New Jersey, where he graduated from Leonia High School in 1972 as valedictorian. Obtained bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University in 1976 and master’s degree in same area from University of Pennsylvania two years later. Other than his native Estonian, he speaks fluent English, German and Spanish.
Andrus Ansip Born 1 October 1956 in Tartu. Current PM of Estonia since 12 April 2005; also current chairman of market liberal Estonian Reform Party. Graduated from University of Tartu with degree in Chemistry in 1979. Went on to work as engineer at Tartu State University between 1979 and 1983 (with two- year break for required military service). Was later Instructor in Industry Department and Head of the Organizational Department of the Tartu District Committee of Estonian Communist Party between 1986 and 1988. Has participated in several banking and investment ventures. Has been Member of Board of Directors of the People’s Bank of Tartu (Estonian: Rahvapank), Chairman of the Board of Livonia Privatization IF, and CEO of Investment Fund Broker Ltd. (Estonian: Fondiinvesteeringu Maakler AS). Was also Chairman of the board for Radio Tartu.
Ene Ergma Born 29 February 1944 in Rakvere. Member of Riigikogu and scientist; current Parliament speaker. Member of Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica; was member of Res Publicia prior to merge with Pro Patria. Obtained her Diploma cum laude (B.Sc./M.Sc. equivalent) in astronomy and Ph.D. in physics and mathematics from Lomonosov Moscow State University, and D.Sc. degree from Institute of Space Research in Moscow. Was professor of Astronomy at University of Tartu (since 1988). Was elected to Estonian Academy of Sciences in 1994. Majority of her scientific study has explored evolution of compact objects, i.e., white dwarfs and neutron stars, as well as gamma ray bursts.
Estonian Reform Party Centre-right, free market liberal party. Founded 18 November 1994. Led by current PM Andrus Ansip; has 33 members in 101 member Riigikogu, making it biggest party in legislature. Has participated in government for all, with exception of three years, since its founding. Founded by then-President of Bank of Estonia Siim Kallas as break from Pro Patria. Secured 19 seats in Riigikogu at 1995 parliamentary election, making it second-biggest party at that time. Substituted Estonian Centre Party in government in autumn of 1995, remaining there until following year. Lost a seat in 1999, but returned to cabinet in coalition with Pro Patria and People’s Party Moderates; has participated in different coalitions since, with Andrus Ansip as PM since 2005. Gained 31 seats in 2007 parliamentary election, which made it biggest party for the first time, increasing seat tally again in 2011 parliamentary election, with 33 seats. Has had significant influence, particularly with regards to Estonia’s free market and low taxes policies, as it has been in most government coalitions in Estonia since mid-1990s. Full member of Liberal International since 1996, having previously been observer from 1994 to 1996, as well as European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Its founder and first chairman, Siim Kallas, has been Commissioner of European Commission since 2004; Kallas is also one of the first VPs of Barraso Commission.
Estonian Centre Party Centrist, social liberal party. Member of European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. With more than 12,000 members, it has biggest membership of an Estonian party. Founded 12 October 1991, on foundation of Popular Front of Estonia, after several parties broke away from it; at the time, the party was known as Rahvakeskerakond (People’s Centre Party), for purpose of distinguishing it from smaller Maa-Keskerakond (Rural Centre Party). Its chairman is Edgar Savisaar; vice chairmen of the party are Kadri Simson and Enn Eesmaa. Asserts that its purpose is creation of strong middle class in Estonia; claims it is a “middle class liberal party”, even though it has reputation of having more policies leaning to the left, against setting of Estonia’s economically liberal parties. Is by far most popular party among Estonia’s Russian minority.
Union of Pro Patria and ResPublica Liberal-Conservative party. Founded 4 June 2006, with merge of two conservative parties: Pro Patria Union and Res Publicia. Had 32 out of 101 seats in Riigikogu and one of Estonia’s seats in European Parliament, up until 2007 parliamentary election. Member of European People’s Party (EPP), with roughly 8,500 members. This blended party comprised of two individual boards and two party leaders; this was substituted by unified board and leader in May 2007. Its candidate for PM was Mart Laar, who became one of the party’s chairmen.
Social Democratic Party Social-democratic party, currently led by Sven Mikser. Founded 8 September 1990. Member of Party of European Socialists since 16 May 2003; also member of Socialist International since November 1990. Previously called People’s Party Moderates; in this way, it won 6 seats with 7.0% share of vote in Riigikogu in 2003. Most successful party in 2004 European Parliamentary Election in Estonia, in which it gathered 36.8% of national vote, giving back 3 MEPs. Its youth wing is known as Young Social Democrats.