As Riigikogu's rating plummets, Laar proposes reform

  • 2008-03-12
  • By Yury Sogis
TALLINN - To save the Riigikogu's reputation legislators must take decisive action against MPs who use strong language and ethnic slurs during sessions Mart Laar said in address to the legislative body.
The former Prime Minister also believed that the Estonian public would feel justice had been served  if Members of the Riigikogu reformed the system used to pay themselves.
According to a EuroBarometer survey last fall, only 46 percent of Estonian citizens trusted their parliament. Political parties managed to scrape up only 22 percent of public confidence votes in Estonia, according to the poll.

Laar was quick to point out that Estonians weren't alone in their growing distrust toward lawmakers. "The situation in Estonia is far from being unique. Some of our neighbouring countries have even worse record when it comes to the reputation of parliament,"he said.
"Nowhere in the world is politicians' reputation sky-high, and frankly, I don't see a reason why it must be in the first place," Laar said.
Laar, who leads the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, added, "To be honest, I am scared of politicians gathering 98 percent at elections. You know, we've already seen some of them in action."
Still, there is room for improvement. Laar insists that Parliament must be more rigorous when addressing its members' missteps and blunders.
In case of controversial or even scandalous statements of PM's the entire legislature must publicly state its position and not just leave it up to the party to discipline wayward lawmakers.
Otherwise, the crude political rhetoric of certain MPs will cast a further shadow on Riigikogu's reputation, Laar said.

The former prime minister has also asked Riigikogu to re-consider its own remuneration system. Eighty percent of Estonian citizens, according to public polls firm Emor surveys, demand an overhaul of the current compensation system. Laar, a former history teacher, would like to see the MP's salary indexed in a certain correlation to teachers' salaries all over Estonia.
"Being a sober politician, I realize that it's going to be tough for me to enact this, no matter how much the idea appeals to me," he conceded.

He concluded his speech by inviting Parliament to look at the Finnish model. In Finland, at the end of each session a certain "wise men committee" at Parliament decides the level and structure of compensation for the MP's that will reconvene next year.