MP who made remarks on Russians, refugees elected to PACE delegation ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE) has been elected to Estonia's PACE delegation.
Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE) has been elected to Estonia's PACE delegation. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE) has been voted in as a member of Estonia's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), with 52 voting in favor at the 101-seat Riigikogu. Forty-four votes were cast against his candidacy, representing all opposition MPs, from the Reform Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDE).

Three coalition MPs abstained, Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa), along with Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski and Mikhail Stalnuhhin, from the Centre Party, ERR reports.

Reitelmann's candidacy had been surrounded by comments he had made on asylum seekers and Russian-speakers in Estonia

Reitelmann says he has apologized for the earlier remarks.

Opposition MP Raimond Kaljulaid, who recently joined SDE, expressed his disappointment at the result.

"I really would have liked to believe that the Centre Party and Isamaa politicians would not support a candidate who referred to our Russian-speaking compatriots as parasites, and those from other nations as much worse than that, to be posted to PACE, then demanding that Russia respects human rights. Any person thinking person can see what an absurd decision this is, " Kaljulaid said at the Riigikogu.

Russia's full voting rights at the PACE were restored in May, prompting widespread criticism in Estonia.

Reitelmann's co-party member Henn Põlluaas,President of the Riiigikogu,said the move overrode a core Council of Europe (CoE) principle, that of protecting universal human rights.

Russia's voting rights had been suspended after the 2014 annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing insurgent war in eastern Ukraine began.

Reitelmann replaces Jaak Madison as EKRE's representative on the PACE delegation after the latter was elected an MEP in May.

Estonia has six people on its delegation, chaired by Jufereva-Skuratovski, along with Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform), Indrek Saar (SDE), Raivo Tamm (Isamaa) and Vilja Toomast (Reform), as well as Reitelmann.

While all can participate at the PACE, Estonia has three votes at the assembly.

Reitelmann has in the past referred to Estonia's Russian-speaking residents "parasitical 'tiblas'" (a derogatory term for a Russian person) as well as calling refugees "cockroaches of convenience." 

At the time he was endorsed as a candidate, in early October, Raimond Kaljulaid, then still an independent MP, called the development very said.

"What happened with the Riigikogu foreign affairs committee today?... Sad, very sad. Frankly, I cannot recall any other case of such betrayal of voters in Estonia's recent history," Kaljulaid wrote on his social media account at the time.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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