TALLINN - Lawmakers failed to support a new term for the country's justice chancellor despite a strong recommendation from President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Allar Joks, who had served as the country's top law auditor for seven years, mustered only 36 votes in the 101-seat Riigikogu (parliament) in a secret ballot held on Dec. 18. Fifty-six MPs voted against his candidacy, including many from the ruling Reform Party.
The Reformists said Joks had not been productive enough, while the opposition Center Party said that they had nothing personal against Joks but that it was time for fresh blood on the post.
"Joks' weakness became apparent as soon as his work was compared to that of the previous justice chancellor, Eerik-Juhan Truuvali," MP Peep Aru of the Reform Party said.
"Although attempts have been made to create a public impression that Joks sweated from day-to-day to point out contradictions with the constitution and that his predecessor did nothing, the bare figures speak a totally different language," Aru said.
The rejection came despite a recommendation from Ilves, who said three days prior to the vote that Parliament had failed to explain why it was against Joks' second term in the post.
"I have not heard criticism from anywhere that he has not coped with his work. On the contrary, as legal chancellor and as ombudsman Joks has been one of the intermediaries between the state and the citizens and he has been doing impressive work," Ilves said.
Aru seemed to disagree, saying, "Not even the president [was surprised by the outcome of the vote], who through consultations was well aware of the parliament's standpoints."
According to Aru, Joks made nine proposals for bringing laws into line with the constitution and 14 reports on the need to amend legislation. Truuvali, by contrast, had submitted 23 proposals and made 60 reports.
"The fact that Joks has been more in the public eye, and as if stood closer to the public than Truuvali, is an optical illusion of sorts," Aru said. "The reason for this is actually very simple 's the two men's job descriptions were totally different."
Hanno Pevkur, a Reformist MP, said Joks manipulated public opinion too much through the media and failed to address the advertisement scandal prior to this year's parliamentary election.
Ombudsman duties were added to the justice chancellor's job only after Truuvali left office, and it was precisely this added role that has made Joks visible, Aru explained.
The Center Party's 29 MPs said they would not support Joks' candidacy, explaining that even though Joks had done an exemplary job, seven years was a sufficient time for a person to exhaust himself in one position.
"Other persons should be given the chance of having a go at this job," Vilja Savisaar, wife of Center Party leader and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, told Baltic News Service.
Several ruling and opposition parties tried but failed to have the vote postponed until January.
Parliament appointed Joks justice chancellor in February 2001. He took office on March 7 of the same year and his term expires on March 6, 2008.
"There's nothing extraordinary in Joks' not passing the vote," Aru added. "Estonia is a parliamentary state and, like the president said in the spring, Parliament must not be a rubber stamp. The president has the right to make proposals and the parliament for its part is fully within its rights to turn them down."
Prior to the vote, however, Ilves had said Parliament needed to learn how to explain itself better. "In a democratic country the parliament has the obligation of justifying its decisions to the public. Parliament is not a voting machine, but a place of political discussions," the president said.