SDE 50,000 amends filibuster aims to halt ERJK abolition bill before summer

Indrek Saar and Katri Raik behind the blank papers representing the proposed 50,000 amends to the coalition's bill to remove the ERJK
Indrek Saar and Katri Raik behind the blank papers representing the proposed 50,000 amends to the coalition's bill to remove the ERJK Source: Tiina Jaakson/ERR

The Social Democratic Party (SDE) has tabled around 50,000 amendments to a bill which would remove the body responsible for monitoring political party finances in Estonia. With a week-and-a-half to go until the Riigikogu's summer recess starts, this could hold up the controversial law, which SDE says is the intention.

"Pretty much [that number of amendments] yes. We presented a very large amount," SDE MP Kalvi Kõva told ERR Tuesday.

"It goes without saying that these amendments have been made so that this bill will not be considered in this Riigikogu [session]," he added.

Were it to pass, the bill would abolish the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK), handing its role to the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) instead.

Arguments presented by the bill's sponsor largely revolve around perceived bias on the ERJK, which is headed up by an SDE member and former entrepreneurship minister, Liisa Oviir, as well as claims that the National Audit Office would be more effective at providing the role.

Critics say the move is an attempt not only to conceal the ruling Center Party's finances, subject of scrutiny and penalties in recent years, but would also head off fines totaling €1.2 million likely to be due Center in the fall, by containing a provision setting a deadline which would wipe the fines from the table.

Previous attempts to reform the ERJK, which is around 10 years old, by handing its tasks to the audit office, date back to 2018.

SDE chair Indrek Saar, confirmed to ERR that his intend to use the opportunity of the opposition as a filibustering tactic.

Saar added that the bill could not be realistically improved.

"It is certainly possible to improve the monitoring and rules of party funding, but this cannot be done by abolishing the monitoring commission," he said.

An ERR journalist photographed Saar and SDE MP, and former interior minister, Katri Raik, against the background of a large pile of papers (see photo above), which are reportedly not in themselves amendments, but blank papers as a way of visualizing what the amends – which would be submitted electronically – would look like.

SDE announced on Tuesday morning that it would present an action plan that would prevent the three coalition parties, Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa from implementing what they call its cynical plan for liquidating the ERJK.

"We do not agree with the attempts of the Center Party or any other party to escape responsibility by abusing its power. On the contrary, everything must be done to reduce the power of money in politics," said Saar.

An attempt last week by the two opposition parties, Reform and SDE, to block the bill, was voted down at the Riigikogu.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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