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The Estonian Constitution has a narrowly defined date for its parliamentary election.

Constitution of Estonia:

Regular elections to the Riigikogu shall be held on the first Sunday in March of the fourth year following the preceding Riigikogu election year.

The wording creates a bit of confusion in the scenario when the Parliament (i.e. Riigikogu) is dissolved.

Specifically, if the Estonian Parliament is dissolved BEFORE the first Sunday of March in 2020, should the next election take place on the first Sunday of March in 2023 or 2024?

The issue here is that if the hypothetical election takes place in 2024 (as the Constitution seems to suggest), the election would essentially happen slightly after its 4-year term expired. This would create a short period of vacuum when the country has no legislature to oversee the government, which is obviously not ideal.

Are there any legal interpretations that clarify what is to be done in this situation?

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  • Does this cause actual confusion (ie are there significant groups in Estonia who over the last 30 years have argued for different interpretations). A short period of elections in which Parliament is dissolved is not unusual, and most Parliamentary democracies have such a period. – James K Oct 26 '20 at 6:58
  • @JamesK The Estonian Parliament has never been dissolved under the current Constitution, so I don't think it is a heated debate within the country. That said, I think the wording is not clear enough such that it can potentially lead to controversies or crises down the line, so I'm curious what is the mainstream interpretation. – QuantumWalnut Oct 26 '20 at 7:07
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Elections to the Riigikogu have occured in:

1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019

The wording of the Constitution seems clear: if an election occurs in Year x, then the next election is on the first Sunday in March of the year x+4.

If there is an election in 2020 (there wasn't) then the next election will be in 2024

In fact there was an election in 2019, so the next election will be in 2023. Specfically on Sunday 5th March 2023

It is perfectly normal for there to be an election period during which parliament is dissolved, this typically lasts a few weeks. During this period no new laws can be passed and there isn't parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive, on the other hand there is much greater democratic oversight from the people.

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