Voting - Estonian elections (4)
Arvamus 10 Jan 2011 Peeter BushEWR
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The Estonian elections are coming up soon. For those of us that were born outside Estonia to refugee parents this can be a troublesome time. Should we vote or just stand by and follow the results?

I was recently asked if by not voting I was prepared to accept some tibla (a current Estonian pejorative expression even worse than the “N” word here) being elected to Estonian parliament (riigikogu) rather than somebody who would act in the interests of Estonia (eestimeelne).

The answer I gave was that I really had no choice about this since I had never bothered to obtain an Estonian passport and identity card so I was not on the voter’s list. Also, I was not sufficiently familiar with Estonian politics to know who to vote for.

The reply I got was that the first problem was easily fixed - just pop in to the friendly Estonian Embassy and start the paperwork. If I did this soon I should receive the documents in time.

Up to now I had not considered doing this. While an Estonian passport is useful travelling in the European Union, I never experienced any problems travelling with my Canadian passport nor do I have any intention to move to Europe. My life is solidly anchored here. My work life was mainly spent in the civil service of the Canadian government to which I swore a loyalty oath. My “Estonian” connection is with family over there through correspondence and visits every five years. As well, I have infrequent contact with the small local Ottawa Estonian community. Although I can get by in basic spoken Estonian (albeit with a strong west Saaremaa accent and “horse and buggy era” country vocabulary), the fact that I am writing this in English speaks for itself. I no longer use Estonian every day and have not done so for a long time. Every once in awhile I send short Estonian language articles to the paper but these are carefully edited by somebody here first. I suppose some would call me a “hobby Estonian”.

The right to vote in a democratic society with free open elections is something that only returned to my parents’ birth land a short two decades ago. Previously voting there was a simple matter-you simply showed up marked your ballot where indicated and left. There was no suspense waiting for results which were always the same. Things are different now because you have to make a choice and there seems to be as many parties (erakonnad) as there are flavours of ice cream. As well, Estonia is still on a proportional representation basis.
Previously it was 100% for the Communist party and now it is spread all over the place. Minority or coalition type governments are the order of the day and there seem to have been quite a few since independence was restored. For us that grew up in a “first past the post” system voting for a specific person to represent them it seems more than a little strange.

I talked to two people about some of my concerns voting in an election where I did not have to live directly with the results. One knew exactly who to vote for, the other was not going to vote because they felt that we here could easily cause Estonia harm by voting without full knowledge of the local situation.

So what to do? Hopefully this article will create some worthwhile discussion in the internet version of this paper and possibly even further articles in English by impartial knowlegable people. In particular an explanation of how the electoral systems works would be helpful. Also a straightforward explanation (if possible) of which parties can be expected to best represent Estonia’s interests from our war time Diaspora’s perspective would help.

I think I will wander downtown to the embassy so that when the time comes I will have a choice as to whether to exercise my birthright or not. I was in Narva this summer with relatives. When they noticed a group of local rough looking young men close by they nervously and quietly warned me not to speak loudly in Estonian. That was my first encounter with “tiblas”. I hope it will be my last.
 
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