Imre Sooäär may take up Riigikogu seat, but may not

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Imre Sooäär. Source: ERR

Imre Sooäär is to take up a seat at the Riigikogu, Center Party group chair Kersti Sarapuu said Monday morning. However, Sooäär himself has not confirmed he will take up the post, saying he will reveal his decision Monday afternoon.

The move had been anticipated for around a week, not least because it is speculated that Sooäär would vote against the coalition made up of his own party, Center, along with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, on a planned marriage definition referendum.

This may bring the number of MPs who would vote against holding the referendum in the first place perilously close to the 51 votes needed to strike it off, at the 101-seat chamber.

On Monday morning, Sooäär told BNS that he had not given permission to anyone to decide for him whether or not to become an MP.

Sooäär said: "I have not bowed to pressure in my life before. I will announce whether I am entering the chamber or resigning before the Riigikogu today at 3 pm."

"For as long as I have not taken the oath of office, I am not a member of the Riigikogu either. I will certainly go to the Riigikogu to either take the oath or hand in my resignation," he went on.

"With such severe pressure from both sides over the last few days, where I have been forced to keep my head down without making a decision, I could still resign today any time up to the beginning of the sitting (i.e. at 3 p.m. - ed.) and I am considering that very seriously."

Sooäär, 51, a former Reform Party MP who had been working as an adviser at the foreign ministry, ran for Center at the March 2019 elections, narrowly missing out on a seat. Since Kalev Kallo has had to vacate his seat after being found guilty of bribery, someone had to step up to fill the void. The usual process would be for the next candidate on a party's list who did not win a seat under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation to replace the outgoing MP.

This happens in the case of promotion to government minister, as well as leaving the Riigikogu for other reasons, such as taking up a post in the private sector.

Sooäär will also explain why there was somewhat of a delay in making his announcement, ERR reports.

Center is actually the third party Sooäär has been a member of; after leaving Reform in 2018 following a 12-year stint, he joined Center. He had earlier been a member of Res Publica, forerunner of today's Isamaa, in the mid-2000s.

Sooäär has not publicly said how he would vote on the marriage referendum bill – the bill to be put before the chamber to decide whether the referendum on retaining the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in domestic legislation and planned for April, if it goes ahead at all.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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