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Constitution of Estonia

Constitution of Estonia

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The Constitution of Estonia is the fundamental law of the Republic of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 and establishes the state order as that of a democratic republic where the supreme power is vested in its citizens. It was adopted in a freely elected Estonian Constituent Assembly
Estonian Constituent Assembly
The Estonian Constituent Assembly was elected on 5-7 April 1919, called by the Estonian Provisional Government during the Estonian War of Independence. The Assembly was elected by proportional representation. Eligible voters included soldiers at the front...

 on 15 June 1920 and came into force on 21 December 1920. A second constitution was adopted on 24 January 1934 following a referendum in 1933, and was in force until a third constitution was enacted on 1 January 1938. It remained in force, de facto, until 16 June 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and, de jure, until 28 June 1992 when the fourth and current Constitution of the Republic of Estonia was adopted by referendum.

First Constitution (1920–1933)


The first constitution was a reflection of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

's idea of national sovereignty. Power was split between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature according to the principles of Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

. The constitution provided for a high degree of public initiative and for referenda. Despite the constitution being modelled upon Montesquieu's ideas, there existed an imbalance with the single-chamber Riigikogu
Riigikogu
The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

 exercising undue power over the executive and the judiciary, leading to instability and frequent changes of government. The head of state and the head of government was the State Elder.

Second Constitution (1934–1938)


Due to the instability of the government, attempts were made to redraft the constitution, with a referendum held in 1932 to consider two draft versions. Both drafts were rejected, however a third draft proposed by the populist Estonian War of Independence Veterans' League or Vaps Movement was adopted in a 1933 referendum and came into force on 24 January 1934. This second constitution established a more authoritarian state order, with the introduction of an executive head of state and the Riigikogu reduced in size and power. A new powerful Presidential institution was established which could exercise supreme power via presidential decree that assumed the force of law. In order to prevent the Vaps Movement coming to power under this new constitution, Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts VR I/1 and III/1 was the most influential politician of interwar Estonia. He was one of the first Estonians to become active in politics and started an almost 40-year political rivalry with Jaan Tõnisson, first through journalism with his newspaper Teataja, later through politics...

 (who had been elected head of State under the new constitution) seized power in a bloodless coup d’etat on the 12th March 1934. Suspending the existing constitution Päts initiated preparation of a third constitution.

Third Constitution (de facto 1938–1940, de jure 1938–1992)


The third constitution was enacted on 1 January 1938. It saw the creation of a bicameral National Assembly consisting of a Chamber of Deputies being the first chamber and the National Council being the second chamber. The role of the National Council was to review and ratify legislation from the Chamber of Deputies, it consisted of elected representatives from local and vocational self-governments and high officials, while the Chamber of Deputies was directly elected by the people. Another change compared to the 1934 constitution was the President was no longer directly elected by the people but by an electoral college
Electoral college
An electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office. Often these represent different organizations or entities, with each organization or entity represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way...

 consisting of both chambers of the State Assembly and local self-government representatives.

A Soviet style constitution was introduced on August 25, 1940. It was succeeded by the Estonian SSR constitution of 1978.

Fourth Constitution (1992–present)


The present constitution was enacted after a referendum on 28 June 1992 and incorporates elements of both the 1920 and 1938 constitutions. While retaining the Presidential office of the 1938 constitution, it returns to the parliamentary unicameral chamber model of the 1920 constitution. It asserts its continuity with the pre-1940 state and the restitutive basis of Estonia’s independence.

Composition


The constitution contains a preamble and several chapters. The Preamble to the current Constitution of Estonia reads:
"With unwavering faith and a steadfast will to strengthen and develop the state,

which is established on the inextinguishable right of the people of Estonia to national self-determination and which was proclaimed on 24 February 1918,

which is founded on liberty, justice and law,

which shall protect internal and external peace, and is a pledge to present and future generations for their social progress and welfare,

which shall guarantee the preservation of the Estonian nation, language and culture through the ages,

the people of Estonia, on the basis of § 1 of the Constitution which entered into force in 1938, and by a referendum held on 28 June 1992, adopted the following Constitution."

Chapters


The current constitution contains fifteen chapters, which contain the following:
  • The first chapter of the Constitution addresses the nation's general provisions. It contains seven articles.
  • The second chapter of the Constitution of Estonia discusses the people's rights, liberties, and duties.
  • Chapter 3 addresses the people of Estonia.
  • Chapter 4 deals with the Estonian Parliament
    Riigikogu
    The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

     (Riigikogu).
  • Chapter 5 pertains to the President of Estonia
    President of Estonia
    The President of the Republic is the head of state of the Republic of Estonia.Estonia is a parliamentary republic, therefore President is mainly a symbolic figure and holds no executive power. The President has to suspend his membership in any political party for his term in office...

     and his or her duties, responsibilities, and rights.
  • Chapter 7 addresses the legislation of the Republic of Estonia.
  • Chapter 8 addresses financial issues and the budget of the Republic of Estonia.
  • Chapter 9 addresses international relations and treaties.
  • Chapter 10 addresses Estonia's national defense.
  • Chapter 11 pertains to the function and the role of State Audit Office.
  • Chapter 12 pertains to the rights, functions, and appointment of the Chancellor of Justice.
  • Chapter 13 pertains to the structure and operation of the judicial system and the courts.
  • Chapter 14 pertains to the jurisdictional, administrative and budgetary aspects of local governments in Estonia.
  • Chapter 15 pertains to mechanisms and procedures related to amending the Constitution.

Fifteenth anniversary of the fourth constitution



For the Constitution's fifteenth anniversary celebrations, A. Le Coq
A. Le Coq
A. Le Coq is an Estonian brewery. The company was founded by Albert Le Coq in London in 1807, using a brewery in Tartu that was founded in 1826. The company was bought in 1997 and is currently owned by Finnish company Olvi. It produces many different types of drinks including beers, long drinks,...

 produced a new brand of beer, the Constitutional Pilsener in cooperation with Estonian Ministry of Justice.

See also

  • Constitutional law
    Constitutional law
    Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....

  • Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

  • Constituent assembly
    Constituent assembly
    A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

  • Estonian Declaration of Independence
    Estonian Declaration of Independence
    The Estonian Declaration of Independence, also known as the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia , is the founding act of the Republic of Estonia from 1918. It is celebrated on 24 February, the National Day or Estonian Independence Day....


External links