Estonian Referendum: Waste of Money on Inconsequential Thing [Interview with Kert Kingo, Hanno Pevkur]

Hanno Pevkur and Kert Kingo on the «Otse Postimehest» webcast // Photo: Mihkel Maripuu via Estonian News

A recent survey by pollster Norstat found that a referendum over the definition of marriage would see 75 percent of people participate. Member of the Riigikogu Constitutional Committee Hanno Pevkur (opposition Reform Party – ed.) described the forecast turnout as considerable.

Coalition Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) MP Kert Kingo said on the “Otse Postimehest” webcast that the referendum would heal the rift in society caused by the passing of the Registered Partnership Act.

Why is the referendum needed in the first place?

Kingo: The Constitution places supreme power in the hands of the people. I find that the people need to be able to vote and take part in such processes.

EKRE have always emphasized the necessity of direct democracy – while it was done in the context of presidential elections in the past. However, the upcoming referendum has the potential to drive a wedge in society. Is it a good idea?

Kingo: I cannot agree that the referendum is splitting society. Society was split when the Registered Partnership Act was passed without consulting the people. Any matter can be put up for referendum.

Is the coalition prepared to honor whichever answer?

Kingo: Of course. One cannot organize a referendum without anticipating it could go both ways. That is the point of holding a referendum, for everyone to be able to express their opinion.

As a proponent of traditional marriage, are you bothered by depictions of same-sex relationships in television, newspaper and commercials?

Kingo: I feel their obtrusiveness is downright harrowing. The topic has been taken to kindergartens where a five-year-old has to learn about living in the wrong body. It has been taken to schools, universities and families.

Pevkur: Suggesting that someone is pursuing a major campaign is an obvious exaggeration.

A recent survey by Norstat reveals that the referendum would see 75 percent of people participate. A good turnout?

Pevkur: That would be a higher turnout than parliamentary elections usually see. However, we need to talk about which matters should be put up for referendum. A referendum costs €2 million and we have far more pressing issues to deal with. The marriage referendum question is an artificial topic that EKRE have hitched to their election wagon. Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Anti Poolamets has admitted that EKRE’s agenda is to get a mandate for repealing the Registered Partnership Act should people answer “yes” to the referendum question. However, that is not what is being asked.

Do you trust the Estonian people and believe they will make the right choice?

Pevkur: Of course I trust the Estonian people. They also elected the current government.

Kingo: We want the people to be able to express their will. We firmly believe the people need to be given the chance to speak their mind on whichever matter.

Pevkur: The fundamental difference is that the parliament also has to assume responsibility. The people elected are responsible for the decisions we make.

What would be the best course of action regarding the referendum today?

Pevkur: The referendum is unnecessary in its current form. Estonia has more important topics to grapple with. I cannot see anyone being made happier as a result of this referendum and am convinced relationships between people will only become tenser.

Kingo: I sincerely believe that the marriage referendum can help close the rift in society created by the Registered Partnership Act being forced through parliament.

Written by Nele Kullerkupp

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