The Estonian Electoral System

According to the Riigikogu Election Act of 11 July 1994, an Estonian citizen who has reached the age of eighteen by election day has the right to vote, and an Estonian citizen who has attained twenty-one years of age by the election day may run as a candidate.

Regular Riigikogu elections are held every fourth year - the first Riigikogu, however, was elected for only three years. Regular and extraordinary Riigikogu elections are called by the President of the Republic. The President may call extraordinary elections upon the request of the Government, or upon expression of no confidence either in the government or in the Prime Minister, pursuant to the Constitution.

Estonia is divided into eleven multi-member electoral districts. The 101 seats are distributed among electoral districts in proportion to the number of citizens with the right to vote.

An independent candidate or candidate list may be nominated by a political party. An independent candidate may be nominated by any Estonian citizen with the right to vote, including the prospective candidate himself or herself. If a political party nominates candidates in more than one electoral district, a national list of candidates specifying the rank order of candidates must be presented to the National Election Committee.

The distribution of mandates in the electoral districts is determined by three rounds of counting:

1. First round of counting. A simple quota is calculated for each electoral district by dividing the number of valid votes cast in the electoral district by the number of mandates. A candidate is elected in favour of whom the number of votes exceeds or equals the simple quota.

2. Second round of counting. In the lists competing for the national pool of equalizing mandates, the candidates are ranked according to the number of votes received. The votes cast in favour of all candidates running on the same list are added up. A list receives as many mandates as the number of times the votes it receives exceeds the simple quota, but an individual candidate on the list must receive at least 10 per cent of the simple quota in order to be elected.

3. Third round of counting. Mandates, which are not distributed in the electoral districts, are distributed as compensation mandates among the national lists of political parties, the candidates of which receive at least 5 per cent of the votes nationally, but not between fewer than two lists. A modified d'Hondt distribution method with the distribution series of 1, 20.9, 30.9, etc., is used.

Political parties and independent candidates shall, within one month after the announcement of the election results, submit a report to the National Election Committee concerning expenses incurred and sources of funds used for the election campaign.

The electoral system has been the same since the 1992 elections, the major amendment being that electoral alliances were forbidden before the elections of 1999.

According to the President of the Republic Election Act of 18 May 1996, the President of the Republic is elected by the Riigikogu. If the Riigikogu fails to elect the President, an electoral body shall convene to elect the President. Anyone born an Estonian citizen and at least forty years of age, may be nominated as candidate for the presidency. The right to nominate a candidate for the presidency rests with no less than one-fifth of the 101 members of the Riigikogu. A member of the Riigikogu may nominate only one candidate. A person can be elected President only for two consecutive five-year terms. In 1992-96, however, a four-year term was applied.

In all three rounds in the Riigikogu, a candidate who receives a two-thirds majority of the full caucus of the Riigikogu (i.e. at least 68 votes) is elected President. If no candidate receives the required majority in the first round, a second round of voting is held on the following day, preceded by a new round of nomination of candidates. In the case of a third round of voting, the members of the Riigikogu have a choice between the two most successful candidates in the second round of voting.

If no candidate receives the required majority in the third round, the Chairman of the Riigikogu convenes an electoral body for the election of the President of the Republic. The electoral body consists of the members of the Riigikogu and of representatives of the local government councils (in 1996, there were 273 representatives; thus the total number in the electoral body was 374). A minimum of 21 members of the electoral college has the right to nominate a candidate for election. No member of the electoral body may nominate more than one candidate. A candidate obtaining a majority vote in the electoral body is considered elected. If no candidate receives a majority, a second round of voting shall be held on the same day between the two candidates who received the greatest number of votes in the first round.

Source: Estonian Legislation in Translation: Legal Acts of Estonia, No. 7, July 1996, Estonian Translation and Legislative Support Centre.

Adapted from: Berglund, Sten, Ekman, Joakim, and Aarebrot, Frank H., 2004. The Handbook of Political Change in Eastern Europe. Second Edition. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Elections in Estonia

Riigikogu: Parliament

 

1992

1995

1999

2003

2007

Turnout

67.8%

69.1%

57.4%

58.2%

61.0%

 

Votes

%

Seats

Votes

%

Seats

Votes

%

Seats

Votes

%

Seats

Votes

%

Seats

1

Estonian Nat'l Independence

40,260

8.8

10

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

Pro Patria Union

100,828

22.0

29

42,493

7.9

8

77,917

16.1

18

36,169

7.3

7

-

-

-

3

Coalition Party

62,329

13.6

17

-

-

-

36,692

7.6

7

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

Estonian Centre

56,124

12.2

15

76,634

14.2

16

113,378

23.4

28

125,709

25.4

28

143,518

26.1

29

5

Moderates

44,577

9.7

12

32,381

6.0

6

73,630

15.2

17

34,837

7.0

6

-

-

-

6

Estonian Royalist Party

32,638

7.1

8

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

7

Better Estonia/Estonian Citizen

31,553

6.9

8

19,529

3.6

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

8

Pensioners' Alliance

17,011

3.7

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

9

Farmer's Assembly

13,356

2.9

0

-

-

-

2,421

0.5

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

10

Greens

12,009

2.6

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

39,279

7.1

6

11

Entrepreneurs' Party

10,946

2.4

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

12

Left Alternative

7,374

1.6

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

13

Coalition Party and Rural Union

-

-

-

174,248

32.2

41

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

14

Estonian Reform Party

-

-

-

87,531

16.2

19

77,088

15.9

18

87,551

17.7

19

153,044

27.8

31

15

Estonian United People's Party

-

-

-

31,763

5.9

6

29,682

6.1

6

11,113

2.2

0

-

-

-

16

Right-Wingers' Party

-

-

-

27,053

5.0

5

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

17

The Future is Estonia Party

-

-

-

13,907

2.6

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

18

Justice

-

-

-

12,248

2.3

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

19

Estonian Farmers

-

-

-

8,146

1.5

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

20

Fourth Force

-

-

-

4,377

0.8

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

21

Estonian Country People's Party

-

-

-

-

-

-

35,204

7.3

7

-

-

-

-

-

-

22

Estonian Christian People's Party

-

-

-

-

-

-

11,745

2.4

0

5,275

1.1

0

-

-

-

23

Russian Party in Estonia

-

-

-

-

-

-

9,825

2.0

0

990

0.2

0

-

-

-

24

Estonian Blue Party

-

-

-

1,913

0.4

0

7,745

1.6

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

25

Res Publica

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

121,856

24.6

28

-

-

-

26

Estonian People's Union

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

64,463

13.0

13

39,215

7.1

6

27

Pro Patria and Res Publica

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

98,347

17.9

19

28

Social Democratic Party

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

58,363

10.6

10

29

Christian Democratic Party

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

9,456

1.7

0

30

Constitutional Party

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

5,464

1.0

0

 

Others

29,242

6.4

0

8,476

1.6

0

8,912

1.8

0

6,925

1.4

0

3,527

0.6

0

 

Total

 

100

101

 

100

101

 

100

101

 

100

101

-

100

101

Source: Estonian National Electoral Commission, 2003. Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon. Htttp://www.vvk.ee, accessed 5 February 2004, 4 August 2005, 18 June 2007.

Presidential election of 20 September 1992

Electorate 689,608 (%)
Valid Votes 463,528 67.2
Invalid Votes 5,077 0.7
Total Votes 468,605 68.0
     
Arnold Ruütel, Safe Haven 195,743 42.2
Lennart Meri, Fatherland Union (1) 138,317 29.8
Rein Taagepera, Popular Front (now EK) 109,631 23.7
Lagle Parek, ENIP 19,837 4.3

Source: Estonian National Electoral Commission, 2003. Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon. Htttp://www.vvk.ee, accessed 5 February 2004.

1 Winner by Parliamentary decision between top two candidates.

Materials on this page adapted from: Rose, Richard and Munro, Neil, 2003. Elections and Parties in New European Democracies. CQ Press: Washington, D.C.

European Parliament election in Estonia, 13 June 2004

Turnout 26.8%
  National Parties EP group Votes % Vote Seats % Seats
27 Social Democratic Party (SDE) PES 85,433 36.788 3 50.0
4 Estonian Centre Party ALDE 40,704 17.527 1 16.7
14 Estonian Reform Party ALDE 28,377 12.219 1 16.7
2 Pro Patria Union PPE-DE 24,375 10.496 1 16.7
26 Estonian People's Union - 18,692 8.0 0 0
25 Res Publica - 15,458 6.7 0 0
28 Estonian Democratic Party - 2,849 1.2 0 0
23 Russian Party in Estonia - 805 0.3 0 0
  Other parties (2)   2,386 1.0 0 0
  Independents (4) - 13162 5.7 0 0
  Total   232,241 100.0 6 100.0

Source: Estonian National Electoral Committee, 2004. Elections to the European Parliament: June 13, 2004: Preliminary Results. http://www.vvk.ee/ep04/index_eng.html Accessed 14 October.


Top of Page