TALLINN - Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has rejected a bill passed by parliament on Nov. 19 that would freeze MP's wages, echoing earlier statements from Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.
The legislation would have seen the freezing of all MP's wages at a rate pegged to the national average from the start of next year until February 2010. It would also have provided the possibility for salary cuts should the national average decline over that period.
Kristel Peterson, a spokesperson for the President's Office, told The Baltic Times that Ilves' opposition to the bill was strictly founded on a constitutional violation. Peterson cited bill 75 of the Estonian constitution, "the remuneration of members of the Riigikogu [parliament] and restrictions on the receipt of other employment income shall be provided by law, which may be amended for the next membership of the Riigikogu."
Affirming this, Ilves said he objected to the bill on the grounds that the salaries of MP's are fixed by law and according to the constitution amendments can only be made in regards to forthcoming members of parliament.
"I have read claims that the fundamental law can be overlooked if the majority of people are in favor of this. The opinion that the constitution can be ignored in some instances if this is supported by a part of the people will lead the Estonian state onto a dangerous path," the president said.
"By ignoring, dodging or taking lightly the Constitution we jeopardize the rule of law principles underlying our state. The rule of law has to be strengthened all the time, not weakened," he said.
Ilves' opposition to the bill, which passed parliament by 53 votes to one, followed similar comments from Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at a press conference on Nov. 18. Ansip said it was a violation of the constitution to have MPs pass laws affecting their own pay, and said that freezing wages would effectively translate as a wage cut when inflation is factored in.
The bill 's launched in June by factions from the Reform Party, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, the Social Democrats, the People's Union and the Greens 's originally entailed the freezing of the salaries of both lawmakers and top officials. However, it was then split into two separate legislations when the constitutional committee was unsure of the constitutional eligibility of MPs to make changes to law affecting their own pay.
The second legislation, pertaining to freezing the salaries of top officials 's including that of the President himself 's was ratified and implemented by Ilves on Nov. 24 as it bore no contradiction with the constitution.
"Seeing that such a decision is within the competence of Parliament and that the constitutional boundaries were not overstepped in its making, I promulgated the law," Ilves said.