In the run-up to the elections of the Estonian Parliament, held on March 6th, many non-governmental organizations have taken the initiative in educating the electorate and improving the elections process.
eGovernance Academy has led the development of an electoral compass, allowing voters to discover their position in the political landscape. Users answer 30 political statements reflecting the positions of major Estonian parties. The electoral compass has received substantial media attention, not least because it is affiliated with the online elections portal of Estonian Public Broadcasting. To date, over 90 000 people or roughly 10% of the electorate have used the electoral compass.
Meanwhile, Transparency International Estonia is making sure that the elections process itself is fair and democratic. The organization is inviting volunteers to monitor the election process on March 6th, noting that in addition to disciplining officials at polling stations voluntary observation also strengthens civic participation in the political process and improves civic education.
The Estonian National Youth Council is conducting shadow elections for minors yet ineligible to vote. Shadow elections are conducted in schools across the country, and students can pick their favorite candidate on the same basis as regular voters online via www.varivalimised.ee. Results of the shadow elections will be announced on March 6th, after the closing of official polling stations.
The Estonian Debating Society in collaboration with the daily newspaper Postimees conducted a series of public debates, posted online on the daily’s website, with representatives of all major Estonian parties. In the series, top debaters from the Debating Society argued against the parties’ major campaign promises, which MP candidates then had to defend. Candidates were then evaluated by judges, also from the Debating Society. In additon, readers of Postimees’ website could cast their own vote. According to the judges, the debate series was won by the Social Democratic Party, whose leader, Sven Mikser defended the proposition “The cap on parental benefits is too high”. The popular vote belonged to Jüri Ratas, Centre Party, who argued that “Strategic companies should belong to the state”.
The think tank Praxis has analysed the campaign promises of all major Estonian parties, publishing the results in the online elections portal of Estonian Public Broadcasting, and their own website www.praxis.ee. Praxis has compared major campaign promises in the fields of education, tax policy, social policy, education policy and family policy. The think tank has commented on the feasibility of the campaign promises as well as their cost.