Interior minister: Media created controversy that led to no-confidence vote

Mart Helme was also approached by an ERR camera crew at the Riigikogu on Monday.
Mart Helme was also approached by an ERR camera crew at the Riigikogu on Monday. Source: ERR

In his remarks before parliament ahead of the vote on the failed no-confidence motion in the Riigikogu on Tuesday, interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) blamed the events that prompted the opposition's censure motion on the media, including public broadcaster ERR.

"All these accusations are invented after all, all these accusations have been launched by the media to a big degree. I thank Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR-ed.), which in fact does not belong to the propagandists of that broadcasting company, but to the Estonian people, but they have not understood this and think that they are working in some kind of a universe of their own. Thank you for hyping up this scandal!" Helme said, according to BNS.

The vote of no confidence failed with 44 votes in favor and 42 votes against. Although it received more votes in favor, a minimum of 51 votes at the 101-seat Riigikogu is required for a motion to pass; 13 abstentions accounted for much of the remainder.

Helme described the claims made by the authors of the no confidence motion as lies. 

"One lie is that I am disparaging ordinary working people," the minister said.

"I believe there are few people in this chamber who have thrown as much dung [out of the cowshed] as I have, who have done as much digging and plowing at planting beds and in the field as I have, who have cut as much hay, heaped up hay, put it before animals as I have," Helme continued.

"To be accusing me that I don't know what the life of a simple person is like, that I am disparaging simple work is outright ridiculous. It is invented and propaganda," Helme said.

Speaking on a talk show on private radio station TRE Raadio, Helme referred to new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin as a "cashier".

Helme also said on Tuesday that he has "never, ever disparaged or insulted the Finnish people." 

"I cannot agree with the course of the current Finnish government, its ideological platform. And I have the right to say this both as a private person and a member of the government of the Republic of Estonia, which does not mean that we should be picking a row with Finland," Helme said.

In Sunday's talk show, Helme also said that the five-party coalition led by Marin was stocked with "reds" bent on making Finland a province of the EU. He also referred to the 1918 Finnish Civil War, in which the Red forces were defeated by the Whites, calling the current coalition the revenge of the losing side.

Helme says words misinterpreted

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."

Both President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) issued apologies to Sanna Marin and the Finnish government on Monday, following reports of Helme's Sunday comments.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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