Seven coalition members may vote against marriage referendum draft

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Session Hall at the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

On Monday, the draft marriage referendum bill will undergo its first reading in the Riigikogu and the opposition parties intend to vote it out. This would fail if every member of the coalition voted against it, but there are several members who have already said they will not agree to a future referendum. ERR's Estonian language portal examined how sceptical coalition members intend to vote on the draft.

The governing coalition of the Center Party (25 members), EKRE (19 members) and the Isamaa (12 members) has 56 votes in total in the Riigikogu, giving them a majority to pass legislation when needed.

No vote is required for the draft marriage referendum bill to pass the first reading, but the opposition can propose to vote the draft out of procedure and the Riigikogu. Chairman of the Social Democratic Party Indrek Saar and leader of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas have told ERR their factions will make a proposal to do so.

A majority is required to reject a bill - so if all 56 members of the coalition parties voted to keep the draft, a call to reject it would not succeed. However, there are seven members of the Isamaa and Center parties who have said or implied they will not vote to keep it in the procedure.

Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) has said the failure of the marriage referendum would also mean the end of the coalition.

A referendum on the concept of marriage should take place on April 18 and has been proposed by EKRE and written into the coalition agreement. It will seek to add a definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman to the constitution.

ERR asked the seven known sceptical coalition members what they intend to do on Monday.

Doubtful votes

Isamaa member Siim Kiisler told the ERR he will vote in favor of rejecting the draft referendum. "Regardless of the outcome, such a referendum will not make the lives of Estonian families any better. In the coming months, we must deal with the health care crisis and the economic crisis, not the desire of extremist populists to spread hatred from both sides," Kiisler said.

Mikhail Lotman (Isamaa) did not give a straight answer, saying: "You'll see how I vote on Monday." Earlier this month, in an interview with newspaper Maaleht, Lotman said he would not be able to vote in favour of the issue.

Another Isamaa MP Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits said she could not support the bill. "I think that the draft referendum on marriage deserves to be rejected at the first reading. My worldview is conservative, based on traditional values, but I do not support the referendum on marriage," she said.

"It would be politically correct and only right to send this bill back at the first reading and not to waste particularly valuable time in a crisis situation. I intend to vote in favor of the rejection proposal," she added.

Üllar Saaremäe (Isamaa) has implied on social media he will also not support the bill.

Isamaa member Andres Metsoja has not yet decided how he will vote on Monday but said he does not intend to abstain. 

Metsoja said that although he thinks a child should have a mother and a father at birth, not two parents of the same sex, he is hesitant about the public rhetoric about the marriage referendum. "It doesn't benefit anyone in society," he said.

Metsoja said that not everyone in the Riigikogu faction may be required to vote according to the party line. "This issue is very personal to people and they can, of course, make that decision as they see fit," Metsoja said.

Andrei Korobeinik (Center Party) has also been critical of the marriage referendum but did not want to tell ERR how he would vote on Monday.

Imre Sooäär (Center) told ERR he is trying to find a consensus between the various parties to put the issue into a different wording. 

"Voting it out would bring it back in again the next day. /.../ But if I see that there is no desire to discuss this issue, then I can also vote against it on Monday," Sooäär said. "I will not pass this referendum, as it is currently proposed to the Riigikogu."

Sooäär plans to meet with representatives of various political parties over the weekend and also with the Archbishop of Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (Eesti Evangeelne Luterlik Kirik) Urmas Viilma to find a compromise.

Kaja Kallas called Sooääre's search for a new wording absurd. "It is clear that he will not get votes for that," Kallas said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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