Online voting raises concern, gives new coalition first challenge

  • 2005-05-04
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Parliament is scheduled to vote on a bill that specifies the implementation of e-elections, pitting coalition partners the Reform Party and the People's Union against one another, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported.

According to the paper, the People's Union vehemently opposed online voting during coalition talks while the Center Party, though not exactly thrilled with the idea, remained neutral.

The disagreement could escalate into the new ruling coalition's first conflict in Parliament. Deputies from the senior coalition partner Reform Party, the opposition Res Publica and most likely the Center Party are bound to press the green button, the paper said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has expressed firm support for online voting. "Nevertheless, the coalition has not got down to a definitive discussion on the issue and has not yet decided anything," he said.

Janno Reiljan, a leading People's Union politician, maintains that instead of promoting democracy, the system will foster corruption and vote-buying.

"As the People's Union is clearly opposed to e-elections and the coalition acts only in agreement, it can be said that e-elections won't materialize," Reiljan stated.

Justice Minister Rein Lang hopes online voting will bring more people to the polls. "I give my full support to e-elections because this would enable people to make their choice much more conveniently, and thus we can hope that voter turnout will be somewhat higher than usual," Lang said.

Indrek Raudne, a senior member of the opposition Res Publica party, doubts whether online voting will become a reality under the present government. "Some forces are interested in causing populist fears regarding e-elections because they fear it is a good opportunity for parties to collect extra votes," Raudne said.

The central electoral commission that developed the online voting system believes it can be applied both in the Oct. 16 local polls as well as in following elections.

A public poll in Tallinn last January served as a touchstone for the online method, which demonstrated that the system worked without hitches.

If Parliament does pass the bill, Estonia would become the only country in the world where people could vote through the Internet from home. Although online voting is widespread in other countries, a voter must conduct his e-vote at a polling station computer.