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Politics of Estonia


Politics in Estonia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in the Estonian parliament. Executive power is exercised by the Government which is led by the Prime Minister. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Estonia is a member of UN, European Union and NATO, among others.


Head of State

The President of Estonia is elected by Parliament (Riigikogu) for a five-year term; if he or she does not secure two-thirds of the votes after three rounds of balloting, then an electoral assembly (made up of Parliament plus members of local governments) elects the president, choosing between the two candidates with the largest percentage of votes.

Executive branch

The Prime Minister of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariigi Peaminister) is the head of government of the Republic of Estonia. The prime minister is chosen by the President and conferred by Parliament.

This is usually the leader of the largest party or coalition in the Parliament. The activity of the government is directed by the Prime Minister. He does not head any specific ministry, but is, in accordance with the constitution, the supervisor of the work of the government.

The Prime Minister’s significance and role in the government and his relations with other ministries often depend on the position of the party led by the prime minister in vis-à-vis the coalition partners, and on how much influence the prime minister possesses within his own party.

If the prime minister has a strong position within his party, and the government is made up solely of representatives of that party, he can enjoy considerable authority. In all crucial national questions, however, the final word rests with Riigikogu as the legislative power.

Legislative branch

The State Council (Riigikogu) has 101 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation. Only Estonian citizens may participate in parliamentary elections.

Internet voting was first used in the 2005 local elections[1] and it has since then been used in electing Riigikogu and the European Parliament as well.

Political parties and elections

For other political parties see List of political parties in Estonia. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Estonia.

In the years shortly following the restoration of independence, there were dozens of parties to represent a population of only 1.3 million; at present 6 main parties are in the parliament.

The local authorities have developed in much the same direction. All permanent residents of voting age (18) may participate in local elections.

Judicial branch

The supreme judiciary court is the National Court or Riigikohus, with 19 justices whose chairman is appointed by the parliament for life on nomination by the president.

Civil service

Estonian civil service is relatively young. Over 50% of civil servants aged under 40 and a third aged under 30. 42 % of civil servants are male and 58% female. Around half of civil servants have a tertiary degree.

Estonia has a relatively low number of bureaucrats, 18,998 in the central government and 4500 in local governments.

Central government institutions include: 11 Ministries (2,593 employees), 33 Administrative agencies, Boards and Inspectorates (14,790 employees), 6 Constitutional Institutions (805 employees), 15 County Governments (810 employees), and other institutions (National Archives, Prosecutor's Office etc.). There are 241 local government authorities employing about 4500 public servants.