Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) former MP Urmas Espenberg may be able to keep the half-year compensation given him when he had to step down to make way for former interior minister Mart Helme, even if Espenberg returns to the Riigikogu in the next few days.
Under Estonian electoral regulations, when elected MPs are appointed government ministers, their vacated seat – government ministers do not sit at the Rigiikogu – goes to the highest listed candidate at the last elections who did not pick up a seat.
In this case, when Mart Helme was made Minister of the Interior in late April 2019, Urmas Espenberg became his placeholder MP, having just missed out on a seat at the March general election.
With Mart Helme's resignation on Monday in the wake of a backlash over comments he made about the U.S. presidential election and president-elect Joe Biden, Espenberg had to vacate his seat for the returning former minister and former EKRE leader.
Espenberg was entitled to half a year's compensation, under Riigikogu rules, having met the requirement of holding his seat for over a year. This amount totaled €26,000.
However, now another EKRE MP, Alar Laneman, is likely to be appointed new interior minister, this frees up a seat again, which Espenberg would then reoccupy.
Whether Espenberg has to pay back the €26,000 is a matter for the on-off MP himself, the Riigikogu office's head of communications Epp-Mare Kukemelk says.
While the office is to propose Espenberg return the money, there is no legal obligation for him to do so, Kukemelk said.
ERR's online news in Estonian reached out to Espenberg, but he was unavailable for comment.
Another recent new EKRE ministerial appointee, Rain Epler, who was recently made environment minister after Rene Kokk stepped down, required no such musical chairs since Epler was an outside appointee.
Editor: Andrew Whyte