Political parties

Political parties are organisations established to perform political activities, such as standing for elections, nominating their candidates for official positions, participating in the work of the bodies to which their members have been elected, and implementing party programmes. The right to form and join a political party is a constitutionally protected right.

You may either support the activities of an already existing political party by participating in its activities, donating to it, or becoming a member of the party, or form your own political party.

note Members of certain professions where political impartiality is generally accepted as important for the fulfilment of official functions are prohibited from joining political parties. These include judges, prosecutors, police officers, the Chancellor of Justice and their advisors, the Auditor General and the chief auditor of the National Audit Office, members of the Defence Forces in active service.

How to join a political party?

According to the Political Parties Act, you can join a political party if you are an Estonian citizen or a citizen of another European Union Member State who has permanent residence in Estonia, you have active legal capacity and you are at least 18 years old.

If you have decided to join a certain political party, you may either follow the instructions for joining indicated on the party’s website or get in touch with the party via the information available on the website. However, common practice is for parties to require recommendations from current party members in order to join, or, for some parties, to provide these recommendations following an interview.

As a member of a party, you have the right to:

  • participate in the taking of party decisions
  • elect the executive board and other bodies of the party
  • run for candidate at the elections of party officials
  • receive information regarding the activities of the party, as well as to freely express your opinion
  • dispute the decisions taken by the party
  • withdraw from the party

Other rights as well as obligations of members may be provided for in the articles of association of the party.

note The names and surnames of party members are publicly available information accessible to anyone.

How to establish a political party?

According to the Political Parties Act, a party may be established by no less than 500 citizens of Estonia or citizens of European Union Member State permanently residing in Estonia who have reached 18 years of age and have active legal capacity. To establish a political party, you must:

  • draft its memorandum of association, articles of association and platform
  • elect a board
  • submit an application for entry of the political party in the non-profit associations and foundations register, accompanied by all the documents listed in the law

The provisions of the Non-profit Associations Act apply to the memorandum of association and articles of association of a political party.

The law also lists restrictions on the operation of parties. Political parties whose objectives or activities are aimed at changing the constitutional order or territorial integrity of Estonia by force or are otherwise contrary to criminal law are prohibited. Organisations or alliances that possess weapons, are militarily organised or perform military exercises cannot operate as a political party or structural unit of a political party.

What human rights violation may there be?

The inability to join or establish a political party or restrictions on the party’s operation, including banning the party, may all constitute a violation of the freedom of assembly. International law allows restrictions on the operation of political parties, but the States have a narrow margin of appreciation – only convincing and compelling reasons can justify restrictions on the parties’ freedom of association.

Read more about the restrictions on freedom of association in this Guide.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education