Fearing good fortune, Estonia crowd-sources ideas

Apr 11, 2013
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Worried that success might spoil Estonia, its leader has reached out to citizens to tell the government what it should do to satisfy their fast-evolving desires, Estonian Public Broadcasting reports.

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves launched a crowd-sourcing initiative called the People’s Assembly to encourage direct participation in reforming the political system and adjusting to new expectations brought about by an improved economy.

“People’s basic needs have been resolved, due to which people can no longer be content with the existing situation,” Ilves said in a parliamentary address 9 April. “In some countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, this led to a revolution,” he said, referring to student uprisings and political upheaval in those nations. “In Chile and Spain, it led to a change in values. That boundary, a per-capita GDP of $15,000, was achieved in Estonia in 2012. 

Visiting a government website throughout January, Estonians submitted concerns and suggestions for changing elections, political party financing, and other aspects of the democratic process. These arguments were then considered by a team of policy specialists, who formulated 18 proposals that were voted on by a group of 315 citizens and experts in Tallinn on 6 April.

A measure requiring the Estonian parliament to consider proposals supported by a yet-to-be-determined number of citizens was approved by a vote of 237 to 44, while a move to make the People’s Assembly a permanent institution was rejected. The assembly also voted down direct presidential elections, Postimees reports.

The 16 approved proposals will be considered by parliament.

Officials struggled to gather a representative sample of Estonians for the voting, as country’s Russian-speakers were largely unaware of the movement and the country’s southern residents were reluctant to travel to the capital.


Photo of Estonia’s Riigikogu building. Courtesy Wikimedia user Brücke-Osteuropa. Creative Commons.

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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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