Reform Party protests coalition handling of Riigikogu pension reform vote

Reform leader Kaja Kallas.
Reform leader Kaja Kallas. Source: ERR

Opposition Reform Party has submitted a protest over the handling of the government's pensions reform bill at the Riigikogu, Baltic News Service reports, saying the government stifled debate on the bill, which is facing its second vote after being returned to parliament by the president in early February.

"Today, in the great hall of the Riigikogu, we discussed whether or not to reopen the pension fund bill, which has not been promulgated by the president," said Reform leader Kaja Kallas.

"At the same time, the coalition itself has acted in an unconstitutional manner when processing it in committees," Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, said. The party was most concerned about the handling of the bill by the two Riigikogu committees which oversaw it, namely constitutional committee and the finance committee. The complaint itself was issued to the Riigikogu's board.

Kallas said that representatives of the coalition replaced the actual discussion involving MPs in the constitutional committee with a written statement by a lawyer, paid for by the government, claiming that this was the committee's stance.

"At the same time, at the sitting, no committee member was able to present the arguments presented in it. This is such a shameful episode that we submitted a protest regarding the matter to the board of the Riigikogu," Kallas said.

The Reform Party leader added that there is a separation of powers in Estonia, making it reprehensible that the position of the constitutional committee of the Riigikogu, which should stand for the purpose and the provision of the constitution, is underwritten by the executive power, i.e. the government's lawyer.

"All in all, the majority of the constitutional committee voting a unilateral position drawn up by a lawyer for the Ministry of Finance as the stance of that committee is disgraceful and can be considered an incorrect reflection of the committee's course of discussion," Kallas wrote on her social media account, according to BNS.

Kallas said a similar situation also occurred during the discussion at the finance committee, where the committee's stance does not reflect the substantive debate that took place and the various stances of the committee, but is again the same position drawn up by the lawyer as was the case with the constitutional committee.

"We are asking for the board of the Riigikogu to stand for the honor and dignity of the Riigikogu, not to allow such shameful practices, and to ensure that the minutes of the committees fairly reflect the course of the MPs' debates," Kallas said.

The bill in question makes membership of the so-called second pillar of the Estonian pension system, referring to employee contributions, optional where it had been mandatory for most earners since 2010.

The first vote on the bill, which took place at the Riigikogu at the end of January and which the government had tied to a confidence vote, saw it pass by 56 votes in favor to 45 against.  

However, the president returned the bill to the parliament, in line with her constitutional role to do so as she sees fit, on February 7 citing several inconsistencies with the Estonian constitution.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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