Finance minister and Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) leader Martin Helme, and former interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) have called recent general elections in Lithuania potentially rigged.
Appearing on Tre Raadio broadcast "Räägime asjast" on Sunday, the pair referred to the October 2020 elections which ultimately returned Ingrida Šimonytė as prime minister, heading up a centre-right ruling coalition with two liberal parties, as evidence of a "transparent, deep-state scheme, which was enabled to be pushed through," news portal Delfi reports (link in Estonian).
December's change in prime minister in Romania, in a vote of confidence following the resignation of Ludovic Orban earlier in the month, had been the result of something similar, they said.
Speaking about the October elections in Lithuania, Mart Helme said: "What happened for example in the last elections in Lithuania; such a clearly transparent deep-state scheme, which was launched there and managed to get pushed through there."
Other EU states mentioned which were manipulated by a "deep state" included the Netherlands and France, the Helmes said.
Martin Helme concurred, saying: "The same thing was tried in Romania: Exactly the same pattern, exactly the same pattern."
Neither of the two men provided further detail surrounding their claims, though Martin Helme reiterated statements made on the same radio show on Sunday, November 8 that the U.S. presidential elections held a few days earlier had been rigged, adding that over half the U.S. populace believes the same, likening them to faux elections in the Soviet Union and rendering Joe Biden and Kamala Harris impending entry in office has started on a weak footing.
The same day a coalition agreement was signed between the Homeland Union, Liberal Movement, and Freedom Party, paving the way for Ingrida Šimonytė to become Lithuanian prime minister following the second-round run-off held on October 25. The opposition parties in the Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament, are the Farmers and Greens Union, Social Democrats and the Labor Party.
December's motion of confidence in Romania saw a center-right, three-party coalition led by Florin-Vasile Cîțu enter office, on December 23.
Lithuania joined the EU and NATO in 2004, the same year as Estonia. Romania joined NATO and the EU in 2004 and 2007 respectively.
Tre Raadio is a private radio station owned by EKRE MP Siim Pohlak.
Lansbergis: "Your belief in our democracy will help us believe in your common sense"
On Sunday evening, Lithuania's new Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Lansbergis (Homeland Union) replied to the Helmes' comments.
The minister posted a screenshot of ERR News' article along with a comment on social media which said: "Dear Martin, dear Mart. Lithuania, as well as Estonia, restored independence through the democratic will of our people. Trust in democracy and common sense helped us build our countries stronger and closer. Your belief in our democracy will help us believe in your common sense."
Dear Martin, dear Mart. Lithuania, as well as Estonia, restored independence through democratic will of our people. Trust in democracy and common sense helped us build our countries stronger and closer.— Gabrielius Landsbergis (@GLandsbergis) January 3, 2021
Your belief in our democracy will help us believe in your common sense. pic.twitter.com/Uux7uBSmMr
As well as questioning democratic processes in the USA, Lithuania and Romania, Mart Helme also insinuated Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin was unfit for the role as she has previously worked as a shop cashier. After the comments were made, President Kersti Kaljulaid called President of Finland Sauli Niinistö to apologize, while Helme blamed the media for creating controversy.
At the time, Marin did not explicitly comment on Helme's words but posted a comment on social media which said: "I'm extremely proud of Finland. Here the child of a poor family can educate themselves highly and reach many goals in life. A cashier can become prime minister, for instance. Finland would not survive without its workers. I highly value the work of every employee, professional and entrepreneur."
Reinsalu: Lithuania and Romania are our partner countries
Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) posted a message on social media at 11 p.m. saying he had asked Minister of Finance Martin Helme for clarification about his comments and said Helme had told him he did not question the legitimacy of elections in Lithuania or Romania.
"I asked him to say this on Facebook to avoid misunderstandings. It is, of course, the clear position of the Estonian state that Lithuania and Romania are our partner countries, and as a state, we have no questions about their electoral processes," he wrote.
He also said he had spoken to Lansbergis this evening and added they communicate practically every day on common issues.
"Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been best friends during this [coronavirus] crisis, supporting each other both in the past and, I am sure, in the future," he wrote, adding the pair also discussed COVID-19 vaccination procurement.
Küsisin rahandusministrilt, mida ta täna Leedu ja Rumeenia elu lahates silmas pidas. Ta kinnitas, et ei seadnud ega sea ...Posted by Urmas Reinsalu on Sunday, 3 January 2021
Martin Helme: Media dealing in fake news again
Martin Helme commented Sunday evening that the story was the result of the media parlaying some brief comments into a major saga during the tail end of the holiday period.
Helme stated on his social media account that: "Poor journalists have once again been forced to make use of the stronger stuff, and listened to popular talk show 'Räägime asjast'.
"The New Year's Eve (i.e. Sunday's – ed.) show was, of course, knock-out, and good points could have arisen from it, but for some reason it was decided to attempt to take flight with some fake news," he went on.
"Lithuania and Romania were discussed briefly, but more in the context of how the media and internet giants manipulate the public and how the liberal front boosts its own figures. It was never claimed that there had been electoral fraud in the countries mentioned. However, during the program, we linked the topic of corrupt media with our marriage referendum and to [political party] Estonia 200's treatment in our mail.
"It could be said that today's output of fake news relating to the content of our program was a case of quod erat demonstrandum," Helme went on, before issuing a call to listen to the show as his proposed antidote to the above.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Gabrielius Lansbergis, Urmas Reinsalu and Martin Helme, and previous comments from Sanna Marin.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright