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A Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu today. It will clarify the regulation of online voting and will create the possibility to also vote by mobile phone in elections in the future.

The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (344 SE), initiated by the Government, will eliminate the shortcomings that became apparent in the regulation of online voting in recent elections, and which have also been pointed out by the Supreme Court. With a view to increasing transparency, according to the Bill, the regulation that so far has been established by Resolutions of the National Electoral Committee will be provided at the level of Act.

For the second reading, the Constitutional Committee had incorporated into the Bill an amendment according to which the National Electoral Committee would retain its right to establish by its resolution the technical requirements for online voting as the organisation of online voting may change over time. According to an amendment, the National Electoral Committee will establish by its resolution the electronic identification schemes to be used to identify voters. It will create the possibility for voters to identify themselves by Smart-ID in the future. At present, a secure computer with Internet connection, and an ID-card with valid certificates together with a reader, or mobile ID are needed to vote online.

The committee also made an amendment to the Bill to clearly provide for the option of using m-voting in elections in the future. According to an amendment, the National Electoral Committee will assess the suitability of technical solutions before each election and will define by its resolution the operating systems to be used. The Bill will specify that a voter application will be established in particular for more common operating systems and an individual verification application will be established for mobile device operating systems. According to the Bill, a voter application may be established for the latter as well.

The amendments allowing for the use of Smart-ID as well as m-voting are planned to enter into force in October this year. Thus, these options cannot yet be used in the European Parliament elections at the beginning of this June.

In addition, the Bill will specify the tasks and responsibility of the State Electoral Office in the development and management of the information systems relating to elections. The role of the Information System Authority will also be provided for in the Act. According to the Bill, the electoral office will also have the right to involve other competent authorities and persons in the organisation of the development, management and hosting of the election information system and online voting system and in the ensuring of cyber security of such information systems.

During the debate, Mart Maastik, Helir-Valdor Seeder and Aivar Kokk from  Isamaa Parliamentary Group, Jaak Valge, Ants Frosch, Kert Kingo, Mart Helme, Helle-Moonika Helme, Henn Põlluaas, Martin Helme, Evelin Poolamets, Leo Kunnas, Anti Poolamets, Arvo Aller, Siim Pohlak and Alar Laneman from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Lauri Laats, Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart and Vadim Belobrovtsev from the Centre Party Group, Hendrik Johannes Terras from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group and Mario Kadastik from the Reform Party Group took the floor. Unaffiliated Member of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal also made a speech at the debate.

After the debate, the plenary began to review the 96 amendments entered on the list of motions to amend. In the beginning, ten-minute recesses were taken before votings. However, after seven amendments had been voted on, the Council of Elders consisting of members of the Board and chairmen of parliamentary groups convened to discuss the situation. However, they failed to reach an agreement on stopping taking recesses. Thereafter the Board of the Riigikogu also discussed the matter.

Vice-President of the Riigikogu Toomas Kivimägi explained at the sitting that the purpose of the recess granted before a voting was in particular to give members of the Riigikogu an opportunity to coordinate their positions with regard to the voting. “In this case, however, recesses are being taken to hinder the deliberation of an agenda item and thereby the work of the Riigikogu, that is, for the purpose of obstruction,” he said.

According to Kivimägi, two out of three members of the Board had found that, in order to ensure efficient functioning of the Riigikogu, in reviewing the motions to amend the Bill that was being discussed, it was necessary not to allow parliamentary groups to take recesses before voting on the motions to amend. Since there was no unanimity in the Board, the matter was put to a vote in the Riigikogu. In the plenary, 54 members of the Riigikogu supported stopping taking recesses and 19 were against it. Thus, the motion was supported. After the vote, the Riigikogu reviewed all the remaining motions to amend the Bill that had been submitted.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Isamaa Parliamentary group and the Centre Party Group moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill, but the motion was not supported. 19 members of the Riigikogu voted for suspension, but 47 were against it.

Two Bills passed the first reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Information Society Services Act, the Copyright Act and the Taxation Act (390 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. Its purpose is to ensure implementation of the European Union Digital Services Act Regulation and to better counter the spread of illegal content online, to protect the freedom of speech and of information of users of digital services and to harmonise the requirements applicable to digital services in the EU’s internal market.

The Digital Services Act Regulation imposes strict obligations on very large online platforms and search engines with over 45 million users in the EU. Every year, platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, Amazon and Booking.com must assess the risks of their services in terms of dissemination of illegal content, fundamental rights, the protection of public health, and public security, and put in place measures to mitigate risks.

The Regulation will make the activities of online platforms more transparent when it comes to content moderation and making related decisions. For example, users will have the right to be informed when their published content is removed or access to it is disabled. At the same time, online platforms must indicate in a comprehensible way in their terms and conditions on what bases and how they moderate content. The information obtained allows users to contest such decisions and to protect their rights.

In Estonia, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority will exercise supervision over intermediary service providers in order to ensure the rights of users and transparency of digital services. The Authority will be able to participate in cross-border joint procedures and in the exercise of supervision over very large service providers to protect Estonian users. Among other things, the Authority will be able to assess whether the measures taken by very large service providers are sufficient to mitigate the potential risks the services offered by them present to public security in Estonia.

The Bill on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and Other Acts (401 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the first reading. It will allow family physicians to also service people who are not on their practice list and will make the division of work in primary health care more flexible. Under the Bill, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will also have the possibility to assign people who are on a list that no longer has a family physician to another list that is not full and that has a service area corresponding to their place of residence.

At the same time, the Bill will create the possibility to authorise the marketing of a medicine without a marketing authorisation in the case of a definite diagnosis in order to ensure uninterrupted availability in Estonia of a medicine significant in terms of human or animal health. In addition, in the interests of legal clarity, family medical care will be introduced into the Act as a new definition instead of general medical care and the definition of health centre will be employed which will give family medical centres an opportunity to carry greater regional responsibility.

Liisa Pakosta from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group took the floor during the debate.

Two drafts were dropped from legislative proceedings

The Riigikogu rejected the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a proposal to the Government of the Republic to submit to the Riigikogu an action plan for the development of power generation capacities and power grids to ensure energy security in Estonia” (383 OE), submitted by Isamaa Parliamentary Group. The draft Resolution proposed that the Government submit an action plan by 1 May as to the generation capacities the state wished to promote and the sources thereof, and the role of storage, distributed generation, and consumption management to ensure Estonia’s energy security, security of electricity supply, a competitive price level for businesses and an affordable price for household consumers.

At the final vote, five members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the draft Resolution, one was against and there was one abstention. A majority of the votes of the membership of the Riigikogu, that is, at least 51 votes, would have been needed for the Resolution to be passed.

The Riigikogu also rejected the Bill on Amendments to the State Assets Act and the Land Cadastre Act (380 SE),  initiated by Isamaa Parliamentary Group. It was intended to regulate the specifications for the transfer of national defence land by the state. According to the amendments, persons who buy from the state a registered immovable with the intended purpose of national defence land at a public auction would have been able to be released from any prior detailed spatial plan as well as the intended purpose of national defence land in order to apply for a new relevant intended purpose for the registered immovable they acquire.

35 members of the Riigikogu supported the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee to reject the Bill at the first reading and two voted against it.

The first reading of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a proposal to the Government of the Republic on the establishment of a temporary solidarity tax for the banking sector” (367 OE), submitted by the Centre Party Group, the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a proposal to the Government of the Republic to find a solution to the establishment of an annex to the Estonian National Opera” (410 OE), submitted by the Cultural Affairs Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the Security Authorities Act (330 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, and the Bill on Amendments to the Police and Border Guard Act (370 SE), initiated by Member of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal, was cancelled at today’s sitting due to the absence of the presenters.

The sitting ended at 11.36 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The video can be viewed later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.

Riigikogu Press Service
Karin Kangro
+372 631 6356, +372 520 0323
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]