Reform denied remote no-confidence Riigikogu sitting

Entrance to Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu.
Entrance to Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu. Source: ERR

The Reform Party has been blocked from holding a no-confidence vote in interior minister via remote session after two of its MPs have had to quarantine. The vote has been postponed to next month, meaning it will take place in-person at the chamber.

While this will mean the vote goes ahead with the full complement of MPs, as things stand at present, Reform's leader Kaja Kallas says that it may negatively, from her perspective, affect the outcome, as coalition MPs would feel less pressure to vote in-line with the government when doing so remotely and away from the Riigikogu.

Reform tabled its third vote of no-confidence in Mart Helme this week, following a recent furor after he made remarks in the international media saying gay people in Estonia should go and live in Sweden.

However, two of the party's MPs – Siim Kallas and Aivar Sõerd – are in self-quarantine after attending a Viimsi municipal government meeting attended by an individual who later tested COVID-19-positive, meaning they would not be able to appear in the Riigikogu this week, sparking their request for a remote session.

The ultimate decision lay at the feet of the Riigikogu board – which comprises speaker Henn Põlluaas, clearly opposed to the idea, Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder and Siim Kallas himself.

This would have given Seeder, whose party is in office with EKRE and the Center Party, casting vote.

The development means Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), who expressed support for the motion through their leader Indrek Saar, will have to wait until November 9 at the earliest before the vote can be held – by which time its political momentum may have expired.

While Sõerd and Kallas emerge from quarantine on November 3, the Riigikogu is taking a break that week.

Reform's leader, Kaja Kallas, says that the coalition is afraid of the potential outcome of the vote, adding some of its MPs have privately expressed concern to her over Helme's suitability as interior minister.

"We petitioned the Riigikogu board to hold a remote session, but the board does not feel that the self-isolation is sufficient cause to do so," Kallas wrote on her social media account Tuesday.

"Since we can't hold the remote sitting and as a result not all MPs will be able to take part in this important vote, then we are postponing the no-confidence motion in Mart Helme to November, when all the MPs will be present. The reasons for holding a no-confidence motion aren't going anywhere," she continued.

With 44 seats between them at the 101-seat Riigikogu, Reform and SDE will even with all MPs' hands on deck need at least seven coalition MPs to cross the floor, assuming all the opposition MPs vote in favor of the motion, for it to pass.

However, this may be on the cards, Kaja Kallas hinted.

"The coalition bosses are simply afraid that if not all MPs are under their watchful gaze and control, then they will vote according to their consciences. As a result the remote sitting was not allowed."

Nonetheless, who voted what way would be public information regardless of the format.

The Riigikogu and its parties do not have a whip system overseeing important votes as such.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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