Mayor of Tallinn: Marriage referendum doesn't sit well with me

Mayor of Tallinn and Center Party vice-chairman Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" on Wednesday that he does not find the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)-initiated marriage referendum a good idea.

Kõlvart said: "Of course, we can base this on if it has been agreed to in the coalition agreement, but this is a different situation now. Is this referendum asking people their opinion on marriage or is it asking for their opinion on other peoples' fate and if it is asking for an opinion on who is fit for someone else. The emphasis has changed."

"We should be interested in having to choose the direction of a city or municipality and one ideology or another and not have to choose sides in a conflict and then make decisions based on that for local municipality elections. That is certainly not a development we should be interested in. But that is where it is headed now," the Tallinn mayor added.

He plainly stated his opinion on the marriage referendum, an EKRE initiative set to take place on the day of local elections in October next year. "I do not find this referendum suitable," Kõlvart said.

He however avoided responding to a question on whether or not he would prefer to see the current Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition remain in power at a national level.

At the local level in Tallinn, Center are in office alone, with Reform the largest opposition party, as they are at the Riigikogu too.

EKRE's planned referendum would pose the question whether marriage should be defined in the constitution as being between one man and one woman. At present the constitution does not define marriage in any way.

Kõlvart added interior minister Mart Helme's recent remarks in an interview with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) to the effect that LGBT+ people in Estonia might be better off relocating to Sweden were not normal. At the same time, he noted that such statements should not be a part of daily politics.

"We certainly need more clarity. Is it really so that a government representative can just say he does not like a part of Estonia's population and that they should leave," Kõlvart said, adding that EKRE voters should also be considered.

"I do not think anyone can suspect me in being an supporter of EKRE's ideology, but we must not forget that we also have people who hold a more conservative view, for who traditional values are important and that is normal. This does not mean those people hate anyone," Kõlvart concluded.

Marriage referendum

A referendum on the concept of marriage was agreed in the coalition agreement (page 30) when the government was formed in March 2019. Pushed by EKRE, it would seek to add a definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman to the constitution.

EKRE want the referendum to be held at the same time as local government elections on October 17, 2021. Critics have argued this will relegate important local issues to the background, and cause logistical complications as not everyone in Estonia can vote in both the local election and the referendum (only citizens can vote in a referendum, though foreign residents of Estonia are eligible to vote in the local elections - ed.).

EKRE has suggested the question be phrased: "Are you in support of a proposal to supplement the Estonian Constitution § 27 with the sentence 'Marriage is a lasting union between one man and one woman?"

While the referendum's exact wording has not been agreed upon by the coalition, It would likely be a straight "yes" or "no" question.

Opposition politicians are opposed to the referendum, with Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas calling it "an EKRE provocation others should not join", while the chairman of the Social Democrats (SDE) Indrek Saar has called it a "hate referendum".


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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