Reform, SDE's motion of no confidence vote against Helme fails ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Finance Martin Helme.
Minister of Finance Martin Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The motion of no confidence initiated by the Riigikogu's opposition parties on Wednesday against the Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) failed.

Forty-five members of the Riigikogu voted in favor of the motion after an hour-long debate accompanied by several insults. Three Isamaa members did not cast a ballot: Siim Kiisler, Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits and Andres Metsoja. 

In total, the coalition of the Center Party, EKRE and the Isamaa has 56 members in the Riigikogu.

The motion was initiated by the largest opposition party Reform and the SDE agreed to support it on Wednesday morning.

The motion said: "Minister of Finance Martin Helme has lied and withheld information, badmouthed the Riigikogu, president and constitutional institutions and insulted different social groups that has culminated in the minister knowingly and systematically harming the Estonian state, which is why we have lost confidence in him as a minister in the Estonian government."

The motivation for the motion was Helme's involvement with the U.S. law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP which is being paid to protect Estonia's interests in investigating money laundering through Nordic banks in Estonia in the United States.

At the beginning of July, Helme announced a cooperation agreement with the law firm. A contract worth €3 million for two-years work has been signed but not made public between the firm and the Ministry of Finance (Rahandusministeerium).

At the end of July, newspaper Eesti Päevaleht reported that former FBI chief Louis Freeh has previously been hired by the company Prevezon, implicated in the Danske Bank money laundering scandal, and could have a conflict of interest. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) has said this has not been proven. Freeh denies there is a conflict.

The opposition said Helme signed the agreement "in violation of a fair, open and transparent procurement procedure".

The full text of the motion of no confidence against Martin Helme is published below:

Minister of Finance Martin Helme has lied and withheld information, badmouthed the Riigikogu, president and constitutional institutions and insulted different social groups that has culminated in the minister knowingly and systematically harming the Estonian state, which is why we have lost confidence in him as a minister in the Estonian government.

Signing a contract with Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP (FSS) is just one of the reasons Martin Helme does not deserve to hold the position of a minister in the Estonian government – the list of his transgressions goes on.

1. Martin Helme has signed a contract worth €3 million while ignoring honest, open and transparent procurement procedure. A competition involving three law firms has been used to mislead the Riigikogu, government and the public. The finance minister used a mediator to establish contact with Louis Freeh in the summer of 2019 and met with Louis Freeh in December of that year – long before the government authorized a competition to find a legal representative in March of 2020. The minister is responsible for the contract with FSS the procurement process that preceded which has been opaque and where the winner was determined beforehand.

2. The minister has ignored the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' thorough background check and recommendation not to launch talks for a contract with FSS. Instead of pursuing inter-ministerial cooperation, Helme proceeded independently and with the help of his political advisers. Such conduct is not part of democratic and open governance.

3. Martin Helme lied when appearing before the Riigikogu on September 16 when he claimed he has not refused to attend parliamentary select committee sittings. The finance minister has ignored the Anti-Corruption Select Committee's summons on five occasions.

4. Minister Martin Helme has called into question the competency of the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and meddled in national defense planning, ignoring the defense minister and long-term defense plans. The finance minister has personal preferences in terms of defense contractors. The minister has lied when claiming the defense budget is underutilized or that existing framework contracts make possible additional purchases. This kind of conduct places in direct jeopardy Estonia's national security.

5. Minister of Finance Martin Helme has ostracized particular journalists and refused to answer the questions of accredited journalists at government press conferences. This kind of conduct is not in line with the culture of open governance.

6. Minister Martin Helme has belittled farmers, obstructing them from hiring legal labor, criticizing them for having the wrong business model and saying that he will "not shed a tear for farmers" while threatening them with the Tax and Customs Board that lies in the administrative area of his ministry. Martin Helme is also increasingly insulting other groups in society.

7. The finance minister has referred to Riigikogu select committees as a flea circus and belittled the Riigikogu with his conduct and choice of vocabulary. His attitude toward the Riigikogu reflects the minister's attitude toward Estonian citizens and constitutional order.

Minister Martin Helme's utterances and actions show that preferring his own and ignoring [the principles of] transparent governance is habitual and commonplace for him. Governance that is based on favors and return service is neither admissible nor legal in Estonia.

"There are some sins a politician is not forgiven and lying is one of them," Martin Helme has said.

We are of the mind that Martin Helme cannot continue as minister because he has gravely harmed Estonia's interests – we express no confidence in the finance minister.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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