A vote of no confidence against Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) in the Riigikogu failed on Tuesday morning, with 44 votes in favor and 42 votes against. A majority of 51 votes would have been needed for the no-confidence vote to pass.
The opposition lost out on two expected votes, as MP Valdo Randpere (Reform) was absent from the sitting and MP Jaak Juske (SDE) abstained from voting.
A total of 13 MPs abstained from the vote, including 11 Isamaa MPs and MP Oudekki Loone (Centre).
The no-confidence motion, which was submitted by the opposition Reform Party, included the signatures of 46 MPs of the 101-seat Riigikogu, and focused on the recent case involving critical comments regarding Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and the Finnish government.
"We are expressing no confidence in Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Estonia Mart Helme in connection with his personal attack against Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin," Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas said as she handed in the motion. "With his language, the minister of the interior has damaged Estonian-Finnish relations and the reputation of the Estonian state, and degraded women and people of various social backgrounds. Mart Helme's behavior unequivocally demonstrates that he is not fit to bear the responsibility of member of the government."
The opposition leader specified that this no-confidence motion was not against the coalition, but specifically against Mart Helme.
"Mart Helme has repeatedly damaged the reputation of the Estonian state, and we allow him to continue in the position of minister, then he will have the opportunity to degrade Estonia's dignity even further, and we will fall even further into disgrace," she said. "It isn't a matter of assessing the coalition or government, but rather a specific minister."
Helme calls Marin 'salesgirl'
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme attacked Finland's new government on Sunday, calling them "reds" that are attempting to destroy the country.
Speaking on Räägime asjast, a program on radio station TRE; which has ties to EKRE, Helme called into question the competence of the new government to be able to manage as the executive power.
"I would still recall [Soviet leader] Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin's saying that every cook could become a minister, or something to that effect," he said. "Now we can see that a salesgirl has become prime minister and some other street activist and uneducated person has also become a member of the government."
He commented more broadly on the Finnish government as well.
"Now we can actually see to some extent how the historical revenge of the reds on the whites is taking place — that is to say, the reds who wanted to liquidate the Finnish state in the [Finnish Civil War of 1918] already have now come to power and are now desperately trying to liquidate Finland, turning it into some kind of europrovince which may still be called Suomi or Finland as a territory, but which in fact completely drags along the tail of the ideological philosophy of the so-called Fukuyama-esque end of history."
Minister issues 'apology'
Following a meeting of the coalition council on Monday, Helme said before the press that he apologizes to Marin if his words on Sunday had been misunderstood, but nonetheless blamed the press for stressing the wrong thing.
"That specific sentence about the Finnish prime minister, which you have interpreted as demeaning, I have actually interpreted as complimentary — as recognition that someone can work their way up from a low social standing to the peak of politics," Helme said following a meeting of the coalition council on Monday.
"Second, if anyone has misunderstood this thanks in large part to the emphasis of the Estonian press, then truly, I'd like to say that I apologize to the Finnish prime minister, if this misinterpretation has been amplified in Finland as well," he continued.
"Now as regards Finns that I have allegedly insulted, then I have not insulted Finns, but rather also repeatedly said and I will say once again that the Finns' contribution to our War of Independence was irreplaceable."
Editor: Aili Vahtla