March 1, 2015: Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) Elections
At the end of February AEGEE-Europe deployed 22 observers to Tallinn in order to cover the thirteenth parliamentary election of the republic of Estonia. The mission’s primary aim was to observe the elections and give a general assessment. In pairs of two, the observers visited over 60 polling stations located in Tallinn, its surroundings and in the country’s second city, Harju county and Tartu. Unique to Estonia is the possibility to vote online, but given the specifics involved, the mission limited themselves itself to observation of the standard procedure in which ballot papers are used.
Our overall assessment is that the Riigikogu elections were very well organized, from the opening of the polling stations to the closing and counting procedures. Taking into account previous experiences of the observers group, they were impressed by the organisation, conduct and good will observed during these elections. Isolated procedural irregularities were noticed, as well as some inconsistencies concerning counting and sealing procedures.
There were some misunderstandings between members of the Polling Stations and our observers. This was mainly due to a lack of awareness on the side of the PEC members of what observation means and what observers do. All these irregularities were few and far between and they were not in any way intentional. Any irregularities on behalf of the voters were handled quickly, calmly and professionally, in accordance to the protocols.
In Estonia, there is a significant Russian-speaking minority. Observers were curious as to how and if this would influence the elections. Some of the observers were deployed in areas were Russian speakers are very numerous and others were deployed in predominantly Estonian regions. It was interesting to see if any visible differences between voting procedures in these regions were observed. Observations differed from region to region. Principally, the election materials are only available in Estonian. Only in a few cases Russian election materials were observed. However, most of the PEC members had a sufficient knowledge of the Russian language and were willing to help or assist when necessary.
A high degree of helpfulness from PEC members was encountered. None of the members of the election observation mission were impeded in their observations and as such they had a clear view of the procedures in the Polling Stations.
Taking everything observed into account, we as AEGEE-Europe’s observers state that the parliamentary elections of the first of March, 2015 were remarkably well organised, transparent and conducted in an attentive and helpful manner.
Report written by Lev Murynets and Marieke Walraven on behalf of the Election Observation Project of AEGEE-Europe
Picture by Thomas Leszke.