Today, President of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Lauri Hussar made a speech at the Speakers’ Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (ENPA). Speaking of the challenges of representative democracy, he said that new ways must be sought to increase voter turnout and involve young people, such as introducing m-voting and lowering the voting age.
Hussar said in his speech at the Conference that free and fair elections formed the basis of representative democracy. He pointed out that Estonia had considered it necessary to make participation in elections simpler and to introduce novel methods to achieve that. He explained that online voting had been possible in Estonia since 2005, and at the Riigikogu elections in March this year, more than half of the votes had been cast electronically.
“Now we are getting ready to take the next step. For many years, Estonia has worked to make it possible to vote with a mobile phone. Our goal is to make this possibility available for the next elections,” Hussar said. In his opinion, it would help involve young people in particular, and thus strengthen democracy.
Hussar underlined that the younger generation should be actively encouraged to take part in the election process. “We have to listen to their voice, because they are often the ones most acutely aware of the challenges of today’s world. Therefore, we have lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 at the local elections, and are now considering doing the same for the Riigikogu elections,” he said.
Hussar also drew attention to the need to strengthen the resilience of societies to hostile activities, including influence activities and cyber-attacks, and to take the technological risks into account. According to him, countries need to invest more in increasing cybersecurity and raising media awareness of the people and pay more attention to the threats posed by the use of artificial intelligence.
In addition to challenges of representative democracy, the PACE speakers today also discussed supporting Ukraine and holding Russia to account. At the discussion attended by Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk, consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and role of national parliaments in Ukraine’s reconstruction was spoken about. Tomorrow, the speakers of parliaments will discuss the issues of equality and diversity in relation to the representation of young people, women and ethnic and social groups in parliaments.
During the Conference, Hussar has had meetings with President of the Parliament of North-Macedonia Talat Xhaferi and Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Shalva Papuashvili. Tomorrow, he is planning to meet with Speaker of the Parliament of Türkiye Numan Kurtulmuş and President of the Parliament of Armenia Alen Simonyan.
Speakers and presidents of parliament from the member states of the Council of Europe and its partner and observer countries, as well as the heads of parliamentary delegations have gathered in Dublin, Ireland, for the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament. From Estonia, the Head of the Estonian delegation to the PACE Liisa Pakosta also attends the Conference.
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