Thursday evening 18.00 EST was the deadline for Estonia’s parties and Riigikogu hopefuls to submit their nominations for the 2019 general election on 3 March. Eight parties handed in full lists, including all those currently in the Riigikogu.
The Reform Party, Centre Party, Social Democratic Party (SDE), the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), Pro Patria, the Estonian Greens, Estonia 200 and the Free Party each submitted a full list of 125 candidates.
The Richness of Life Party handed in a partial list of 73 candidates. The last of the altogether 10 parties in this year’s general election, the Estonian United Left Party, split their candidates and submitted two lists following internal disagreements.
The Electoral Committee will now review the candidacies and announce on Monday next week which ones it will admit.
There are also 18 independents running this year, seven more than in the last general election in 2015. They are:
District 1 (Haabersti, North Tallinn, Kristiine):
Margus Saar (not to be confused with the ERR editor of the same name)
District 2 (Central Tallinn/Kesklinn, Lasnamäe and Pirita):
District 3 (Mustamäe and Nõmme):
District 4 (Harju County, Rapla County):
District 5 (Lääne County, Hiiu County, Saare County):
District 8 (Järva County, Viljandi County):
District 10 (Tartu):
District 11 (Valga County, Võru County, Põlva County):
Independents have achieved considerable vote numbers in the past. For example, Leo Kunnas, a lieutenant colonel of Estonia’s army reserve, by now a member of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), got 3,267 votes to his name in the 2011 election, which is impressive even compared to the results of candidates on party lists, though it still wasn’t enough to get a personal mandate and get elected to the Riigikogu.
Electoral districts and lists
There are 12 electoral districts in Estonia from which the 101 Riigikogu members are drawn. Parties can run up to two more candidates than the limit for that electoral district; the two candidates with the lowest number of votes received will be struck off immediately in that case. Remaining votes are distributed across the candidate list using a modified form of the d’Hondt proportional representation system; any remaining seats once that is done are mopped up using the same system on a national basis.
This means that any single candidate needs to gather a relatively large number of votes to get a personal mandate—incidentally the only way for independents to get in.
Which is making it difficult for them to succeed, too. In 1992 in the first Riigikogu election after Estonia regained its independence, there were 25 independent candidates. The general election of 1995 saw 12 individuals run for a parliamentary mandate without the backing of a political party. In 1999, 19 independents ran, in 2003 there were 16, 2007 saw the lowest number with just seven, followed by a record 32 independents in 2011, and 11 in the last general election in 2015.
Those independents currently in the Riigikogu, the so-called aknaalused (“the ones by the window”), weren’t elected as independents, but are in their current position because they left the parties on whose lists they were elected some time during the legislative term that is about to end.