Institution of the president

The position of the institution of the President of the Republic within the Estonian state apparatus has not been historically consistent. Its degree of authority has been changed several times during the history of the Republic of Estonia. During the drafting of the first-ever Estonian constitution in 1920, the model of a parliamentarian state was mostly followed. A Head of State as a separate institution was not deemed necessary at the time – rather, the state was represented by the Chairman of the Parliament (Riigikogu) and the State Elder who was the head of the government. The later constitution of 1938, however, leaned towards the model of a presidential state, in agreement with the then prevailing international understanding.

According to the current constitution, the present role of the President of the Republic remains somewhere between the two extremes. In the course of debates on the new constitution after Estonia regained independence, several different variants outlining the role of the Head of State were considered. Amongst others, the model of a state with strong presidential authority was discussed. It was finally decided that the most sensible approach would be to create a parliamentarian state in which the president has a certain – albeit quite modest – role.

As stated in the new constitution, the President has, in addition to symbolic functions, representational tasks and formal domestic duties, as well as a string of rights and obligations that afford him the independent right to speak in political life. The Estonian President has certainly a bigger possibility to influence daily political life than most European constitutional monarchs, although in this respect the institution does not possess the same authority that it does in countries with presidential constitutions, e.g. the United States of America.

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