Estonia has a well-functioning parliamentary democracy. The government is led by a prime minister and the state is headed by a president. But could the country have ended up with a king instead?
This was an open question back in 1992, when Estonia held its first free elections since before the Second World War. The balloting marked a key turning point in the country’s evolution from captive Soviet republic to thriving sovereign nation.
A total of 13 electoral blocs competed for the 101 seats in the Estonian parliament (riigikogu). To everyone’s surprise, including their own, one of the 9 blocs to win parliamentary representation was the Independent Royalist Party (Sõltumatud Kuningriiklased), whose platform called for the establishment of an Estonian monarchy. Estonia had never in its history had a monarch, so the proposal was a radical one. The Royalists won 8 seats in that first freely-elected parliament.
This was a remarkable outcome, especially considering the royalist platform was put forward with its proponents’ tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. Although the party did make a show of inviting Britain’s Prince Edward to become King of Estonia, the party was led by humorists and its main purpose was to draw attention to the hypocrisies and absurdities of government, for example through the elaborate performance of pagan rituals during mandatory parliamentary prayer sessions.
The 1992 election was won by the Pro Patria coalition, whose 33-year-old leader, Mart Laar, went on to become Estonia’s best-known prime minister. The Royalist party no longer exists, and the prospect of an Estonian monarchy is, shall we say, remote.