Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Centre) said on Monday that Mart Järvik (EKRE) can only continue as minister of rural affairs if he can convincingly deny the allegations against him.
"What's true is that which many coalition politicians have already stated — if the allegations and accusations are true, he can not continue. So far, the minister of rural affairs has failed to convince the prime minister and the public that they have no basis in fact," Kiik said on ETV's Aktuaalne kaamera.
Urmas Arumäe, former adviser to the minister of rural affairs, is being investigated by law enforcement agencies who, according to Kiik, must be allowed to act in peace. "I suppose, then, that things will become clearer. The accusations in the media are awaiting clarification, but unfortunately, we haven't heard them yet," Kiik said.
Kiik acknowledged that this was a difficult situation, and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) was looking for solutions.
"In the coalition, it is customary to discuss crucial issues, but the key question now is whether or not the minister of rural affairs will be able to refute the accusations made against him. If he fails, he will be held accountable," Kiik said.
Siim Pohlak, chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) parliamentary group, publicly supported Järvik on Monday, however, saying he saw no reason for the minister to resign.
"The coming days will probably bring clarity, but the group sees no reason why Järvik should resign," Pohlak told ERR. Pohlak said he believed there is a press war against Järvik.
Prime Minister and Centre Party Chairman Jüri Ratas admitted on Monday night after meeting with Järvik that the conversation did not give him any clear answers. He also hopes to discuss the issue further with the Centre Party and its coalition partners in the next few days.
Minister of Finance and EKRE Deputy Chairman Martin Helme said after the coalition council on Monday that if EKRE's coalition partners pressured Mart Järvik to resign as minister of rural affairs, "this government is gone."
Daily newspaper Postimees reported (link in Estonian) political scientist Tõnis Saarts' view that the short meeting between Ratas and Järvik was probably not a good sign, that both parties are currently pushing each other's boundaries, and it was possible the government could still collapse.
Saarts also said that Ratas has shown himself able to settle conflicts within the coalition so a solution may still be found.
He also said that like Centre, the coalition's third party, Isamaa, has very little reason to pull out of the government because otherwise it will not be able to implement its agenda.
Järvik was at the center of controversy last week over a conflict of interest which saw his former adviser, Urmas Arumäe, representing defendants in an EU subsidy fraud case against the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), a body which falls under the remit of the Ministry of Rural Affairs remit.
Arumäe stepped down on Friday, but opposition parties are maintaining pressure for Järvik, already embroiled in a Listeria controversy connected to a fish-packing plant, to resign.
Editor: Helen Wright