In difference to the earlier Soviet period, the last highest state body of the Estonian SSR, the 12th Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR was elected in large part already on democratic bases in March 1990. The most important legal act of this Council was the Resolution on the national independence of Estonia, adopted on 20 August 1991. As of 8 May 1990, the name of the representative body was the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia. It functioned de facto as the parliament of the Republic of Estonia until the beginning of the mandate of the 7th Riigikogu on 30 September 1992.
The elections of the 12th Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia were held on 18 March 1990. For the first time during the Soviet occupation, the elections were for the most part democratic – the competition was between representatives of several political movements, incl. candidates with non-communist views. The Estonian National Independence Party and some other movements that demanded independence also called to boycott the elections on the grounds that they were elections of an institution of the occupying power.
Arnold Rüütel was elected the Chairman of the Supreme Council, and Ülo Nugis was elected the Speaker
All residents of voting age permanently residing in the territory of Estonia, incl. persons belonging to the armed forces of the USSR, had the right to vote in the Supreme Council. The electorate totalled 1 164 603. 392 persons stood as candidates for the 105 seats of the Supreme Council , and the voter turnout was 78.2%. The elections were held pursuant to the single transferable vote method.
The list of the Popular Front gained the greatest number of votes, it received 24% of votes and 45 seats out of 105. Four seats were designated for representatives of the USSR army. Of the persons who were elected, 73 represented the pro-independence and 27 represented the pro-empire powers.
Arnold Rüütel was elected the Chairman of the Supreme Council and Ülo Nugis was elected the Speaker. Viktor Andrejev and Marju Lauristin were elected Deputy Speakers.
The Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia functioned de facto as the parliament of the Republic of Estonia until the beginning of the mandate of the 7th Riigikogu on 30 September 1992.
The most important legal act of the 12th Supreme Council was the Resolution on the national independence of Estonia, adopted on 20 August 1991. Already on 30 March 1990, the Supreme Council declared a period of transition to the restoration of the Republic of Estonia. In view of this aim, on 8 May 1990, it was decided to repeal the name “the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic” and to adopt “the Republic of Estonia” as the official name. Therefore also the representative body of the people began to be called the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia.
“Although a majority of the legislative framework established by the Supreme Council over twenty years has gone through significant corrections, the basic patterns that were set then have been preserved to a great extent. The work of the Supreme Council gave an important input to the activities of the Constitutional Assembly and the content of our Constitution. Largely thanks to the preparatory work done in the Supreme Council, the Riigikogu elected in October 1992 did not need to start from an empty space when drawing up the Acts organising the life of the restored Republic of Estonia. Today as the fundamental issues of the statehood of Estonia and democratic organisation of society have risen on the agenda again, the experiences and explorations of the Supreme Council more than twenty years ago deserve both recognition and critical study.”
Marju Lauristin, Deputy Speaker of the Supreme Council 1990–1992
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