The word ‘agitator’ (agitaator) still leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Agitators (yes, that’s how they were officially designated) had the responsibility to maximize voter participation in Soviet elections.
Through any means possible, whether by threatening or cajoling, agitators had to produce a 99.9% voter turnout as demanded by the party. To achieve the nearly impossible 99.9% participation level, election organizers were allowed to remove the names off the list of those who didn’t show up to vote. Voter enthusiasm was difficult to muster. Ballots contained only one name. Election results were inevitable. In fact on occasion, results were published before the ballots were counted.
The next parliamentary elections in Estonia will occur in March of 2011; for Estonians abroad, the polls open in February. Why mention it now? There’s still four months to go? It’s the same enthusiasm that is seen as lacking amongst voters in both Estonia and here.
Voting during the Soviet occupation was undeniably an undisguised farce and voters felt alienated from the election process. A similarity can be drawn with the apathy of the voter today. “My one vote has no bearing on the outcome,” is the typically common answer given when asked why someone failed to vote here, abroad, during Estonia’s parliamentary elections.
It might be radical to imply that the non-voter doesn’t believe in democracy. The low voter turnout amongst voters abroad seems to suggest that we don’t support democracies. In a democracy, the majority rules. By not voting, the majority, by default, is voting against the election.
Yeah, the jaded will inevitably comment, “Why bother voting, government policy will be dictated by those that fill the party coffers anyway.” Yes, the non-voters, by abrogating their rights and duties, leave the field wide open to those who have political influence through financial clout.
You have the right to express your opinion at the ballot box. In a democracy, this right comes with the RESPONSIBILITY to participate and contribute. This right has been given to you by the freely elected parliament of Estonia. They expect you to understand that it’s your duty to use it. NOT VOTING IS A VOTE AGAINST DEMOCRACY!
I don’t know the choices. I don’t know the issues. I live here and don’t pay any taxes in Estonia. The excuses are weak and unacceptable. We all have access to the Internet. The choices and issues are there to be read in both Estonian and English. A chat with an informed friend also gives sufficient information to make an informed choice.
Estonian law says that all electors can vote, irrespective of their country of residence or their payment/non-payment of state taxes. About 50% of democratic countries invite voters abroad to participate at elections and provide the means for them to do so.
The Estonian embassy in Ottawa will soon be releasing information regarding the upcoming elections. It’s not too early to start thinking about the vote. More on this topic in future columns.
No excuses for not voting!