President to discuss marriage bill furor with political leaders next week
President Kersti Kaljulaid has called the prime minister and political leaders from coalition and opposition parties alike to meet with her in the wake of events at the Riigikogu Friday which saw opposition MPs protest limits set by chair of the constitutional affairs committee on a marriage referendum bill's parliamentary procedure. The backlash included MPs entering the committee chair's Riigikogu office.
Kaljulaid said via a press release early Saturday morning that: "In a democracy, the right of the majority to pursue its political agenda and the right of the opposition to have a say and be heard are equally important."
"Democracy means, first and foremost, the responsibility of the majority towards the minority. But the developments in the recent days in the Riigikogu show that, above all, political parties need to look for the ability and will to cooperate and to move forward on a common ground."
"The Estonian people expect their representatives to cooperate and to follow the laws they have established. The Estonian people would like to be proud of the Riigikogu," the president added.
Meetings run Tuesday to Thursday
The timetable for the head of state's meetings with government and opposition leaders sees Prime Minister and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas, opposition Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas, finance minister and chair of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Martin Helme and Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder going to Kadriorg Tuesday through to Thursday.
The leaders of at least three MPs and parties' Riigikogu groups, Kersti Sarapuu (Center), Siim Pohlak (EKRE) and Priit Sibul (Isamaa) are also on the agenda, the president's office said.
The developments follow a dispute over the amendment process to a bill aimed at facilitating a referendum on the definition of marriage, planned for April. Chair of the Riigkogu's constitutional committee Anti Poolamets (EKRE) in response to over 9,000 amendments tabled to the bill opted to limit the length of time MPs had to present their proposals at the Riigikogu. This sparked protest from opposition MPs, who entered Poolamets' Riigikogu office on Friday – the latter vacated – as well as the resignation of the committee's deputy chair, opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Lauri Läänemets, which would trigger the replacement of Poolamets as well as Läänemets himself.
Isamaa leader and deputy Riigikogu speaker Helir-Valdor Seeder has called events in the Riigikogu "populist bickering", urging both coalition (his party is in office with Center and EKRE) and opposition members to remain civil and statesmenlike, BNS reports.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte