Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do not get bamboozled in Estonian elections. (Especially if you want to buy your ticket to the top.)

The Estonians had the parliamentary elections last weekend. So, they have a new Riigikogu soon.

There were some major peculiarities in the Estonian elections I found fascinating:

*** THE STATUE ***

One of the ugliest statues I can think of, "Bronze Soldier", monument of Soviet occupation, became the centre of the hectic campaigns. Estonians of Russian origin felt uneasy. In the meantime the pro-EU and pro-NATO-Estonians, as well as all who still feel bad about the Soviet crimes against humanity, wanted to get rid of it. The Russians call it "The Statue of the WWII Soviet Liberator". (Here is an article from Kommersant.) (And BTW, Estonia is a member of NATO, Finland not. Possible, or so far to IStori, IMpossible NATO membership is an issue in the Finnish parliamentary elections this spring.)

A Stupid Comment By IStori:
Whatever you do, please do not send the statue over the gulf. You know, the director of the Finnish Broadcasting company, Mikael Jungner (a law student back then) threw tar and feathers over the Soviet-style Statue of the World Peace in Helsinki in 1990.

Should we Finns ever get something like the Estonian one, I would certainly do the same.

*** THE E-VOTES ***

In Estonia, one could vote by e-mail! Think of that! By e-mail! I have found this so ravishing that I have read all the articles I have seen about this new system.

Voters will get personal PIN codes, and then they will send the vote by e-mail. And, get this: if they feel they want to correct the vote, they can vote again. Only the last vote counts!

But is the system safe yet? I have come to think so. One of the most hilarious comments was in last Saturday's Hufvudstadsbladet (the biggest Finnish daily in Swedish: Nils-Erik Friis, journalist at HBL, had interviewed some Estonian professional in e-votes, and the specialist stated happily: "It is a good system if you want to sell your vote. You can do that twenty times. But it is a very bad system for anyone who wants to buy the vote."

A good BBC article on e-voting in Estonia here.


The Estonians are not very conservative voters! For example, the Green party, "Rohelised", was founded only three months ago, and now they already have six MPs. (Six out of 101.) Way to go, Greens! Pro Patria and Res Publica Union lost big time, Reform Party and Centre Party gained some. But how the draw the line between the Right and Left wings in Estonia? I am not sure.

A Stupid Comment By IStori: The line lies in front of the statue. Pay attention to linguistics: Who is calling whom a "nationalist"? And when.


Dmitri Minaev said...

Predictably, I would disagree with you on the meaning of the monument. This is not a monument to the Soviet occupation. Moreover, it's not even a monument to the Soviet liberation of Estonia. It was built to commemorate all people who died in Estonia fighting against the Nazis -- Russians, Estonians, Tajiks, Georgians, Ukrainians, etc. Not for the Communism, but against the Nazis.

Even though the Soviet government used them and their lives to occupy Estonia, they still deserve respect, because they came there to liberate, not to occupy.

In my humble opinion, the TV tower and the sailing centre in Pirita suit the role of the symbols of the Soviet occupation much better. Why not dismantle them and leave the dead alone?

I. S. said...

Dear Dmitri,

Thanks for you comments.

The TV Tower is great! And it doesn't carry a weapon of any kind. Or not that I have noticed. (But in Vilnius the huge Soviet-style TV Tower is the symbol of liberation and new freedom, as 13 people died under the tanks during the Soviet coup in 1991.)

In Estonia there are people who want to respect the unknown soldiers by the Bronze Soldier, and I respect their grief. And don't want to disturb the dead, either. But yet, I find it so very hard to call "liberation" any military act, which was included in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.


Dmitri Minaev said...

Dear Istori, you definitely should have a look at this monument :). The only sign of weapons is a bronze rifle butt hardly seen from the the back of the soldier. What's even more important, note the inscription: "To those who fell during the World War II". So, let me say it once again: this is not a monument to liberation or occupation. This is a monument to those who were killed in the war against Nazism. Not for Communism, but against Nazism.

I agree with you and the Estonians that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia were occupied. To tell you the truth, I think that Stalin had good strategic reasons to do that, since this occupation prevented the seizure of Leningrad by German fascists, but, of course, it does not justify Stalin or assumes an indulgence to the bolsheviks, who tortured my country for so long. And yet, Stalin, Molotov or Ribbentrop have got nothing to do with this monument. It does not glorify the occupation. It was built in memory of the people who had only one goal -- to destroy fascism.

I have read the words of the president Toomas Hendrik, who said: "This the way people see it. Probably, it is unpleasant to hear it, but in our perception this soldier embodies deportation and killings, destruction of the country instead of liberation." If you pardon my view, it's the problem of the wrong perception, but it's not a problem with the monument.

Let me remind the words of Valdas Adamkus, the president of Lithuania: "The monument must be left where it is... We have a lot of monuments, but nobody is saying that they must be removed."

President of Slovakia, Ivan Gasparovic, said: "In fierce battles, suffering major losses the Soviet soldiers freed from Nazism not only former Soviet republics, including Estonia, but also Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and many other countries. The people of Slovakia will honor the memory of their liberators soldiers."

US congressman, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, Tomas Lantos, also rejected the idea of the Estonian government and said: "I’m the only parliamentarian in the US, who owes his life to the Soviet Army, that liberated me in January 1945 in my home town of Budapest. I have a boundless admiration to the heroism of the Soviet Army which liberated Europe from fascism. It’s important to honour the memory of liberating soldiers in the countries, liberated from Hitler’s yoke."

Dmitri Minaev said...

I apologize for omitting the last name of the president of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves...

Vincent said...

You can vote using the Internet, but obviously NOT with email. It works by connection through a secure web site, the identification being done with the ID card. Nothing to do at all with email.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear IStori,

Thanks for interesting reflections on the Estonian elections!

What concerns the Bronze Soldier dispute, I however think that there is more to the issue than its is ugly and apparently misplaced. I recently wrote a piece on this, and somehow I believe that the monument in itself is not the big problem.

As for the results in the Estonian parliamentary elections, everything seems up for grabs at the moment. I do hope that the Greens are not deceived in this process, although they might not have as wise a party leader as your own Tarja Cronberg.

Voting by e-mail might be a novelty in the elections, but I understood that e-voting worked differently. I might be wrong, but if not, why not suggest it to the Estonian election commission. It seems like a good idea.

Finally, on your own upcoming elections, as a Swede, I am amazed that the Nato issue is debated. That would never be the case in Sweden. However, even some Finns seem surprised. I discussed the matter with an old associate of Jäätenmäki the other night, and he only shook his head, not understanding that you couldn't go on using the "Nato umbrella" for free, when there was no reason to pay for it. I do not know whether these sentiments are representative for the Finnish debate at large, but at least it indicates that opinions differ.



dahl said...

E-voting is by no means a new phenomena, and certainly not for the first time in use in Estonia. E.g. in United States there have been several e-voting experiments, but I do not know how successful they have been. I am not thoroughly convinced of the security of e-voting either. Selling & buying votes is certainly possible in other types of voting systems also.

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