Estonia considers barring Russian citizens from voting in local elections, cites clashing allegiances
The Estonian Ministry of Justice proposes limiting the voting rights of residents holding a Russian or Belarusian passport, by excluding them from taking part in local elections.
The country’s electoral law currently lets foreign nationals living in Estonia vote in municipal (though not parliamentary) elections. The Estonian broadcasting network ERR reported on the proposed change, citing the full text of the draft legislation presented by the country’s Justice Minister Kalle Laanet, a member of the Estonian Reform Party.
The document says that Estonia cannot vouch for the Russian citizens’ capacity to stay free of the influence of their country of citizenship. The Russian Federal Constitution, it emphasizes, requires each Russian citizen to defend the interests of the Russian Federation.
Laanet points out that 67,000 Russian nationals are now living in Estonia, while obliged by the Russian constitution to aid their country of citizenship “in every way.”
“If that country rejoins the ranks of normal democratic states,” the minister said, “then, following the Estonian Republic’s constitution, they will be able to vote.” Their ties to an “aggressor country,” the official argues, mean that Russian citizens shouldn’t have a right to “participate in Estonian democracy,” even at the level of local politics.
“Most of them had an opportunity to get rid of their Russian citizenships and to apply for an Estonian one,” Laanet said.
The minister admits that the proposal contains some contentious points that might clash with the Estonian constitution. A court will likely have to resolve those problems before the new law can take effect.