Isamaa leader likens Helme remarks to Russian nationalist Zhirinovsky's

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder.
Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder has compared statements made by interior minister Mart Helme with those of nationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, adding that the latter is no longer taken seriously, though he qualified his remarks by saying Helme's words were indicative of Estonia's political culture as a whole, and that Helme's party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) could not be dismissed.

"I do not want to make this comparison, but I am forced to say it," Seeder said Monday, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

"We will soon find ourselves in a situation where no one, as is the case with Zhirinovsky's statements in Russia, will seem to be paying any attention to, and, outside its borders, taking seriously, so will we find ourselves in a situation similar with our interior minister," Seeder told ERR.

Seeder's party is in office with EKRE, which Helme leads, and is the last party leader to have commented on Helme's comments about the new Finnish prime minister and her government on Sunday, of the five parliamentary parties.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia since 1991, and was Deputy Chairman of the State Duma in the 2000s, and is noted for his outspoken, aggressive and short outbursts

Seeder also criticized Helme's remarks, made on private radio station TRE Raadio, on Sunday morning.

"In my opinion, this was a statement of an emotionally burned-out man … Is this now the 'plan B', which meant military cooperation between two good neighbors, Estonia and Finland," Seeder asked rhetorically, referring to comments Helme made in an interview with Finnish daily Ilta-Sanomat that Estonia needed a plan B as an alternative to NATO membership, together with the other two Baltic States and involving Finland, which is not a NATO member, as well.

Seeder added that Helme's announcement was an unfortunate follow-up to Kaja Kallas' recent statement that prime minister would sell-out the Estonian state, comments she made in November.

"And now our Minister of the Interior is expressing the view that the Finnish prime minister will liquidate the Finnish state," Seeder said. Helme had said that Marin's government was occupied by "reds" who want to turn their country into an EU province, alluding to the 1918 Finnish Civil War, which Red, i.e. socialist or communist, forces lost, saying it was their revenge.

Seeder added that the issue is not only one of a statement from one particular person, but in Estonia's political culture and politicians' statements in general.

"I would not divide the political culture here, that some standards apply to coalition politicians and others to opposition politicians. We are all responsible for what we say and how we shape Estonia's face."

Seeder added that textured and attention-seeking statements were part of EKRE's approach, something acknowledged by Martin Helme, the party's vice president, finance minister, and son of Mart.

"At the same time, EKRE is part of the Estonian political system. They have a mandate and they cannot be denied [that]. They cannot be ignored. They need to be involved and practiced in a good political culture," Seeder added. 

Of the other three party leaders (apart from Seeder and Helme), Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) reaffirmed his commitment to Estonian-Finnish relations Sunday evening, Kaja Kallas (Reform) has said that a vote of no-confidence will be on its way if Helme is not released from office, and Indrek Saar (SDE) has said that Helme's actions are aimed at isolating Estonia and present a security issue, also apologizing to Marin and the Finnish people.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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