Work of the Riigikogu

The Riigikogu is the Parliament of Estonia. It has 101members, who are elected by the people for four years. The Riigikogu makes decisions which have a strong impact on the life of the nation, like forming the government and overseeing its activities, making and amending of laws, and passing the state budget.

Session Hall of the Riigikogu, 2013. Photo: Paul KuimetAccording the Constitution, which was adopted by referendum in 1992, Estonia is an independent and sovereign democratic republic where the supreme power of state is vested in the people.

Pursuant to Article 59 of the Constitution, the Riigikogu holds the legislative authority, which means that the Riigikogu adopts laws. The government has the executive power, e.g. the government is responsible for the implementation of laws. Justice is administered by the courts. Since Estonia is a parliamentary republic, the President has a predominantly representative function.

The Riigikogu passes the state budget which determines the revenues and expenditures for the following year; this affects the development of all spheres of life. The Riigikogu also approves the report on the implementation of the state budget.

How is the Riigikogu elected?

All citizens of Estonia who are over 18 years of age have the right to vote. The right to be elected is held by all Estonian citizens who have attained 21 years of age and are eligible to vote. The Riigikogu is elected for a term of four years.

The forming and the stability of the nation’s government depend on the Riigikogu. If no political party gains 51 seats in the Riigikogu at the elections, factions will unite in a coalition to form the government. The factions that do not belong to this coalition will form the opposition.

How large is the Riigikogu?

he Riigikogu has 101 members, which is approximately the cube root of the number of people in Estonia with the right to vote. The mandate of a member of the Riigikogu commences on the day of the announcement of the election results.

How does the Riigikogu work?

The Riigikogu working period is called a session, and there are two regular sessions a year. The work of the Riigikogu takes place through plenary sittings, in committees and in factions. The sittings of the Riigikogu are public, and can be viewed from the balcony of the Session Hall.

Riigikogu can declare a sitting closed when it has to discuss issues where a public debate would harm the country or its security, or state secrets could be divulged. So far, this has only been done once, when the weapons procurement agreement was ratified.

What are the tasks of the Riigikogu?

The three most important tasks of the Riigikogu are the passing of laws and resolutions, carrying out of parliamentary supervision and conducting foreign relations.

In addition to these, the Riigikogu:

  • decides on the holding of referendums
  • elects the President of the Republic
  • ratifies and denounces foreign treaties
  • authorises the candidate for Prime Minister to form the Government of the Republic
  • passes the state budget and approves the report on its implementation
  • on the proposal of the President of the Republic, appoints to office the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chairman of the Board of Eesti Pank (the Bank of Estonia), the Auditor General, the Chancellor of Justice, and the Commander or Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces
  • on the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, appoints to office the justices of the Supreme Court
  • appoints the members of the Board of Eesti Pank (the Bank of Estonia)
  • on the proposal of the Government, decides on the assumption of financial obligations by the state
  • makes statements, declarations and appeals to the people of Estonia, other states, and international organisations
  • establishes national awards, and military and diplomatic ranks
  • decides on the expression of no confidence in the Government of the Republic, the Prime Minister or individual ministers
  • declares a state of emergency in the country
  • on the proposal of the President of the Republic, declares a state of war, and orders mobilisation and demobilisation
  • resolves other issues of national importance which the Constitution does not assign to the President of the Republic, the Government of the Republic, other state bodies or local governments.