Two Reform MPs in quarantine complicates Helme no-confidence motion
Reform Party plans to issue a no-confidence motion in interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) this week have been hampered by the fact that two of its leading members, Siim Kallas and Aivar Sõerd, are currently in coronavirus quarantine, daily Postimees writes.
Reform's leader Kaja Kallas initiated the motion following remarks the interior minister made to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle that gay people in Estonia should relocate to Sweden. While the ensuing coalition rift was resolved last week, Reform wants to go ahead with the motion, saying Helme is unfit for the post.
MPs from the other opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE), are likely also to vote in favor of the motion, but together the two parties have 44 votes at the 101-seat Riigikogu, and would need several coalition MPs to join them in support of the motion.
With Siim Kallas, Reform MP and deputy speaker, and Aivar Sõerd, unable to appear at the chamber, the opposition would be down two more votes, Postimees reports.
The two MPs are also members of Viimsi rural municipality council chamber, and attended a sitting last Tuesday attended by a councilor who later tested positive for COVID-19, meaning they must quarantine until November 3.
Additionally, there is no Riigkogu sitting next week, meaning the no-confidence vote would not be possible until November 9 at the earliest, by which time the issue may have lost its momentum.
An alternative might be to set up a remote session where the vote could be conducted, Postimees writes, which would be the first event of its kind
"There is a technical capacity for this is, but it has not been used before," Riigikogu spokesperson Epp-Mare Kukemelk told the daily.
"If the need should arise, the Riigikogu's board [which includes Siim Kallas – ed.) must decide on mitigating reasons for holding any session online," she added.
Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas says however that two absences from the chamber are not sufficient cause to switch to remote working, noting that MPs have had to quarantine at times, since the coronavirus pandemic began. Only if an entire Riigikogu political group – I.e. all the MPs from one particularly party – had to quarantine would this be viable, he added.
The opposition has held two no-confidence votes in Mart Helme since the coalition entered office in late April 2019, in June and December last year. It has also held no-confidence votes in the government itself, and in Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center). None of these have reached the required 51 votes in favor to pass.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte