Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Deputy Chairman Martin Helme backtracked from a previously issued ultimatum on Monday, saying it was no longer the case that if Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) were forced to resign, then the government would collapse.
Helme said the point of the ultimatum was to give Järvik the opportunity to leave with dignity and so the new minister could start in a normal start position.
"I have already been asked what I was saying from the point of view that if Mart Järvik is forced to resign, then the government will collapse. [There will be] no breakdown; Estonia needs the current government. Our strong stance was needed to take the time and talk things out with our coalition colleagues," Helme wrote on Facebook on Monday.
"It was necessary to create a normal starting position for the next minister and the outgoing minister to leave with dignity and contribute further to the party. I am very grateful to Mart Järvik for the work he has done; his successor has a great deal of good things prepared for them," Helme added.
Two weeks ago, Helme told ETV's Akuaalne kaamera that if coalition partners pressured Järvik into leaving his position as minister, then the government would cease to exist, threatening to pull EKRE out of the current ruling coalition.
On Monday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) proposed to dismiss Järvik from office.
Järvik is at the center of a controversy which started several weeks ago 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 Ministry of Rural Affairs' remit.
Arumäe has since stepped down, but opposition parties maintained pressure for Järvik, already embroiled in a Listeria controversy connected to fish producer M.V.Wool, to resign. However, a vote of no-confidence brought against him failed.
Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Affairs Illar Lemetti claimed that Järvik declined to sign a mandate which would have allowed PRIA to claim damages in the subsidy fraud case; Järvik later said his authorization was not needed, producing a letter from Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) to back up his case.
Järvik called for Lemetti to be dismissed. Lemetti resigned, however, on Monday.
A ten-day inquiry into Järvik's affairs and behavior in connection with M.V.Wool released its findings on Thursday, showing that the minister had "exceeded his powers."
Editor: Helen Wright