Imre Sooäär has entered the Riigikogu for the Center Party after all, and in dramatic fashion. Sooäär had sat on the fence earlier on Monday, after the party's Riigikogu group leader Kersti Sarapuu had said he was to take up the seat vacated by Kalev Kallo.
Sooäär also put paid to speculation on how he would be voting on the marriage referendum bill, by saying he would vote against it.
Sooäär's pre-oath speech, during which he spoke about his views on marriage, was reportedly interrupted by hecklers in the hall as well as by Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) who had repeatedly asked Sooäär to wrap up his speech, at one point muting his microphone.
The new MP, who had previously sat in the chamber with the Reform Party some years ago, said that there were more pressing issues in Estonia than the referendum, which would confirm marriage as legally defined as between one man and one woman, as it currently is in the Family Law Act.
Sooäär said: "Isn't it strange that there is never a word for love in anyEstonian legislation," adding that he "...thanked EKRE, I love EKRE; they are also the Estonian people."
The marriage referendum is a Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) policy, one which it got into the April 2019 coalition agreement signed with Center and Isamaa, though all three parties have produced the bill deciding on whether the referendum, planned for April, will even go ahead.
Sooäär inquired whether he would be forcibly removed by the police after being asked to end his speech before taking the oath, which EKRE MP Kalle Grünthal said should not have gone ahead, as he still was not an MP at the time he uttered his words.
The inclusion of Sooäär on the Riiigkogu bench potentially pushes the "no" vote on holding the referendum close to the 51-vote mark needed to defeat it. This includes several Isamaa MPs as well as all opposition Reform and Social Democratic Party (SDE) members.
Sooäär took up his seat after Kalev Kallo had to step down, having been found guilty of bribery as part of the long-running Edgar Savisaar corruption trial.
Under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation, the next candidate on a party's list who did not win a seat at the election would take up a seat when it is vacated.
Sooäär received 349 votes in the March 2019 election, running in the City Center, Lasnamäe and Pirita district in Tallinn.
In the last Riigikogu elections, Imre Sooäär ran as a party in the ranks of the Center Party in Tallinn's Kesklinna, Lasnamäe and Pirita districts. He received 349 votes and did not enter the Riigikogu directly.
Sooäär was announced as a Center candidate alongside another former Reform MP, businessman and chess master Anton Korobeinik, in November 2018. Korobeinik won a seat in the March 2019 election.
Editor: Andrew Whyte