The Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise replied to the interpellation concerning the situation accompanying the court case relating to restrictions on political outdoor advertising, the court having declared the restrictions partially unconstitutional (No. 346), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Artur Talvik, Andres Herkel, Monika Haukanõmm, Krista Aru, Andres Ammas, Jüri Adams and Ain Lutsepp on 5 April.
The interpellation was based on a court case relating to political outdoor advertising, the court having declared the restrictions partially unconstitutional. They were related to the provision that prohibits advertising on cars in candidate’s personal use during the active campaigning as political outdoor advertising of persons who stand as candidates in the list of a political party.
The interpellators asked the Chancellor of Justice if legal clarity would be ensured in the issue as to which outdoor advertising was permitted and which was not, should the Supreme Court repeal the prohibition on political outdoor advertising on personal items before the local government council elections.
Madise said that the question of whether the restricting orders and prohibitions applied to candidates, and their rights, were unambiguously clear to all candidates was extremely important, especially in view of the upcoming local elections. She admitted that the topic had been a problem also for the agency of the Chancellor of Justice for years. “It was a problem already for my two predecessors, and the problem has been intensifying precisely because life has changed but the provisions defining the prohibition on outdoor advertising that were formulated many years ago have remained unchanged,” the Chancellor of Justice said.
In Madise’s opinion there are three general constitutional principles under which all rules and restrictions of election campaigns must be established. First, equal opportunities must be created for all candidates. This means that no rules must be established that create obvious advantages for someone. Here are, for example, the questions regarding the use of the premises of city or rural municipality, and under what conditions candidates must be ensured access to them. Second, all rules and restrictions must be constitutional, including understandable, reasonably performable, controllable and controlled. “A situation where rule-breakers are given advantages must be avoided. Advertising candidates for taxpayers’ money, including in municipal media, is an example here, but you probably know these examples better than I do,” Madise said. Third, all and every type of sources for funding political campaigning must be published and under the control of an oversight body because otherwise it is impossible to avoid political corruption.
“Yes, I find that an absolute prohibition on outdoor advertising during the active election campaign, that is, 35 days before the election day, is unconstitutional in my opinion,” the Chancellor of Justice said. “It is unconstitutional because particularly in local elections it creates advantages for political parties and candidates who are nationally known.” Madise noted that local candidates, for example local election coalitions, would be worse placed in that case.
In reality an absolute prohibition on outdoor advertising, especially in local elections, tends to restrict the possibilities of candidates who have smaller financial possibilities and to increase everyone’s costs.
Madise said that the issue at the Supreme Court at present was defined very narrowly, only with the Riigikogu elections and only with a car. “That is why I asked, in the interests of legal clarity, the Supreme Court to give their position on not only a car but on all movables at the disposal of the candidate, and not only for the Riigikogu elections, but also local government council and the European Parliament elections,” Madise noted. “In principle I think that it is also possible that an absolute prohibition on outdoor advertising during the active election campaign is unconstitutional only in local elections but not in national elections, because national campaigning and national media are actually much more easily available there.”
The Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski replied to the interpellation concerning the health care financing scheme (No. 332) and the interpellations concerning cheating money out of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (No. 340).
The Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson replied to the interpellation concerning ferry traffic (No. 334) and the interpellation concerning Nord Stream 2, Gazprom and Estonia’s positions (No. 336).
The sitting ended at 7.25 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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