Center MP Andrei Korobeinik must vacate his seat to make way for Mailis Reps, who is moving to the Riigikogu following her resignation as education minister on Friday. Korobeinik recently criticized the Riigikogu hierarchy's plans to curb the two opposition parties' attempts to frustrate a marriage definition referendum bill.
The practice of MPs stepping aside is standard when politicians who win a Riigikogu seat then go into the cabinet, only to return to the chamber later. Reps won a seat at the March 2019 Riigikogu elections but was reappointed as education minister for the fourth time, soon after. Government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, meaning the next candidate running on the party's electoral list, under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation usually gets the vacated seat.
At the same time, if the minister then returns to the Riigikogu due to resignation or any other reason, that "benchwarmer" MP must then step aside.
Three ministerial resignations this month
This has happened twice before in November as Rene Kokk (EKRE) and Mart Helme (EKRE) returned to the chamber after stepping down as environment and interior ministers respectively. However, only one MP had to make way this time – since Kokk's replacement, Rain Epler, was picked from the private sector and did not have a Riigikogu seat to vacate. This meant that Urmas Espenberg (EKRE) stepped aside for the returning Kokk, only to swap places with Alar Laneman (EKRE), the MP appointed as Mart Helme's replacement as interior minister.
The final decision on who moves is the Riigikogu's board, who announced Saturday that Korobeinik's seat would be given up with immediate effect, and Reps will received full MP-powers from Sunday, November 22.
Korobeinik, a tech entrepreneur, top chess player and former Reform MP had recently spoken out against curtailing the options for the opposition Reform and Social Democratic Party (SDE) parties to frustrate the passage of a bill which would seek to hold a referendum on the definition of marriage next spring.
Reps resignation received Friday, accepted by president Satuday, becomes MP Sunday
Nonetheless, ERR's online news in Estonian reports that Reps garnered more votes in the 2019 general election (2,069, in Tallinn's City Center, Lasnamäe and Pirita constituency, where she polled second only to Center's current Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart), than Korobeinik, who picked up 1,133 votes in the Haabersti, North-Tallinn and Kristiine constituency, also in the capital.
Center traditionally performs well in Tallinn and in Ida-Viru County.
Reps resigned as education amid mounting pressure through the course of the week on her non-official use of ministry resources, chiefly the ministerial car and driver's ferrying some of her six children to and from school and kindergarten, brought to light in an article by evening paper Õhtuleht.
SDE in particular has in the past adopted filibustering tactics, and said, via its leader Indrek Saar, that it planned to do the same with the marriage referendum bill. However Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) said there were options on getting round the attempted slow-down, including tacking the referendum bill on to other, key legislation.
Center is in office with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa. Reform and SDE are in opposition, though Reform has the largest number of seats of any party at 34, in the 101-seat chamber. There are no independent MPs at present.
Editor: Andrew Whyte