teisipäev, august 08, 2006

Tinkering with Democracy

When I was in ninth grade we held a mock trial in my English class. Each member of my class was given script. Several became jury members, others became witnesses. There were plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, and - of course - a judge. We studied our scripts and proceeded carefully through the trial under our teacher's tutelage. It took an effort by every member of the trial to make it happen - and we got sucked into it. But then, during cross-examination, the student playing the defendant began to crack up. He stopped playing along with the trial and started cracking jokes and veering off script. Within minutes the trial atmosphere was ruined. Our mock trial had been mocked.

In a way, that's the feeling you get from the Center Party's announcement this week that it will not participate in current roundtable discussions in selecting the next president with the rest of the parties, save their pals Eesti Rahvaliit.

KESK is close to signing some sort of pact with ERL, who want to do a run around the parliament to get Arnold Rüütel instated for another five years so he can either serve until he expires or retire from Estonian politics at the geriatric age of 83.

Every opinion poll I have read shows that Estonians want otherwise. Even Rüütel himself has said publicly that having the next president chosen in parliament would be suurepärane - (super duper). But he's not even in the running. Officially.

For months the Estonian parties have discussed the elections and trimmed the list of candidates from nearly a dozen to just two - Ene Ergma and Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Both are qualified for the office of president. Both have reached this stage in the selection process according to procedures agreed upon by the parties. But something is amiss. Something in the air is telling every would-be political analyst that KESK may show it's true colors in the next few weeks when it comes down to the wire.

Ilves and Ergma will get their vote in parliament. That much is true. Perhaps one or two Center party representatives will vote their conscience instead of with their boss. Or perhaps it will go to the electoral college. Or maybe Edgar Savisaar is psyching everyone out while he readies his own scheme.

Whatever that is.

It is important to remember in times like these that democracy is fragile. And the more dirty tricks you pull to serve your own self interest, the less democratic republican government becomes.

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