Chair of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas said that during the extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Constitutional Affairs on the marriage referendum bill, the right to ask questions and debate have been taken away from the members of Riigikogu. Kallas added that her party's MPs will submit a protest on the matter to the Board of the Riigikogu.
The opposition made 9,400 amendment proposal to the marriage referendum bill, but the chairman of the committee Anti Poolaments (EKRE) said Wednesday evening that the bill could go ahead for its second reading without all the amendments being discussed.
"What is taking place, is a severe violation of law. MPs can't ask questions, debate. Reform Party MPs are definitely protesting to the board," Kallas told ERR Thursday.
Kallas added a photo of the head of the committee, Anti Poolamets, sitting in front of an electronic display, which Kallas said was a time-keeping device which was in fact against the law.
"The sign is a creation by the head of the committee which counts time on how long a member of the Riigikogu can talk. This is against the law," Kallas said (see photo).
Anti Poolamets said that it will help to ensure a better work performance of the parliament.
The committee decided on Wednesday, January 6, that the committee won't discuss the 9,400 amendment proposals. Even though, according to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, all MPs have a right to come in front of the committee and present proposals, the committee decided that each presenter will have five minutes.
Sitting ended early
Poolamets said after the extraordinary sitting that while the committee heard from Andrei Korobeinik and Oudekki Loone (both coalition Center Party), the meeting had to be ended after the statement of opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Lauri Läänemets.
"It turned out that the opposition has no desire to sincerely present their amendment proposals as its representatives started to disrupt the sitting," he explained, adding that Läänemets spent 45 minutes talking about his 30 motions to amend and was told he was over the time limit a total of 15 times, which he ignored.
Poolamets said that another extraordinary sitting of the committee will be held virtually on Friday to give every MP the chance to speak.
Opposition leaders ask for referendum proceedings to be paused
Chairman of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas and SDE head Indrek Saar sent a letter to heads of coalition forces after the sitting where they propose pausing the proceedings for the duration of the crisis.
"We find ourselves in a situation where we keep seeing new coronavirus case records. We learned of 1,104 new cases today, with close to 400 people in hospitals. The danger is especially real because a new and exceptionally contageous strain of the virus is at large. There is great uncertainty in Estonian and the global economy. We should pool our efforts as politicians to overcome the crisis. We find that it is irresponsible to move forward debating the concept of marriage in such a situation," Saar and Kallas write.
Heads of the opposition forces say that the Thursday sitting demonstrated that the coalition has decided to break the law in order to force the marriage bill through parliament.
"Silencing the opposition and not giving MPs time to speak violates the Riigikogu Rules and Procedures Act, Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act as well as the Constitution," the letter reads.
"The coalition has the right to introduce legislative initiatives, but steamrolling them into effect in violation of the law and the traditions of the last three decades spells doom for the rule of law and democracy."
"We propose taking the referendum bill off the Constitutional Committee's agenda. Let us put this factious matter on standby for the duration of the crisis to address pressing matters," the politicians close.
Editor: Roberta Vaino