Reaction from both coalition ministers and opposition MPs to interior minister Mart Helme's resignation Monday has see unanimity that it was the right step, and that Helme's comments on Sunday about the United States election and its result had been wholly inappropriate.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the remarks had crossed a line, social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) noted that Helme's party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) had learned from its mistakes, while opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP and former leader Jevgeni Ossinovski urged caution in issuing no-confidence motions, as planned by the opposition Reform Party for Mart Helme, and actually carried out in the case of finance minister Martin Helme.
Reinsalu: Let the US be the US
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday evening that the U.S. can look after itself, and Estonian ministers should concentrate on Estonia.
The Helmes had crossed a line with their remarks, made on their regular Sunday broadcast on Tre Raadio and which have reached the international media - in which they said that the U.S. elections had been rigged, president-elect Joe Biden was a corrupt character and that civil war may be pending - Reinsalu said.
"I think that the remarks uttered on Sunday certainly did not serve Estonia's interests. This is definitely a serious case; my comments and those of the head of state and the prime minister on this issue were certainly relevant," Reinsalu told AK.
"Politics is in my opinion very important. Resignation is also a message from the state concerning such rhetoric, and that (i.e. Mart Helme's resignation on Monday – ed.) will allow this government to continue.
"You don't have to poke your nose into all things. The U.S. state can moderate itself; it is up to the Estonian government to organize and be responsible for what happens in Estonia," Reinsalu noted.
Kiik: EKRE has understood its mistake
Meanwhile, Social Affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) told the show that Mart Helme's resignation shows that his party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), has understood its mistakes.
"The U.S. is Estonia's most important strategic partner in the field of security. A clear message had to be given that these type of statements by members of the government of the Republic of Estonia are unacceptable. Mart Helme's resignation demonstrates that EKRE also understood its own mistake," Kiik said.
Kiik told AK that the resignation was the only logical step in the situation.
"My opinion is there is a limit, somewhere, for every member of the government. The current statements, together with what was gathered earlier, are also the reason why Mart Helme submitted his resignation," Kiik said.
Kiik conceded that his party and EKRE have different worldviews, but nonetheless he rejected Mart Helme's stance on Joe Biden.
"I do not agree with these [statements]. Those positions and points on which we have disagreed have existed in the past and will continue to do so. /.../ There are three parties in the coalition (the third being Isamaa – ed.). The parties have different worldviews, different positions. But foreign security policy has been agreed on within the coalition, headed up by the prime minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defense," Kiik went on.
Jevgeni Ossinovski: Tensions in government have risen
Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Jevgeni Ossinovski noted that while Estonia has good reason to be pleased about Mart Helme leaving office, tensions within the government have intensified, not fallen.
"What will come next? The common goal of all democratic forces today should be to remove extremist populists from the government," Ossinovski wrote on his social media account Monday.
"There are two viable alternatives to today's government, but these will not materialize on their own. Democratic-minded parties must towards this."
Ossinovski noted that the resignation, and the failed vote of no-confidence in finance minister Martin Helme, who also appeared in the Father's Day Tre Raadio broadcast in which the remarks about the U.S. elections and Biden were made, does not mean that EKRE will leave office, adding caution about the over-use of no-confidence motions as a democratic instrument.
Reform leader Kaja Kallas had planned a third no-confidence motion in Mart Helme for this week, but he resigned before it could be carried out. A vote of no-confidence in Martin Helme failed, and two similar motions in Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and the government as a whole, have also failed to pass at the Riigikogu.
"In my opinion, [the planned no-confidence motion in Mart Helme] is a tactically wrong step, which is why I did not sign the initiative. I would of course vote in favor of the no-confidence in the event of a vote, since the present finance minister fits into the government as little as his father did," Ossinovski added in his post.
Editor: Andrew Whyte