Despite reports that both may have to leave their posts, the chair and deputy chair of the Riigikogu's constitutional affairs committee have been reelected.
The election, via secret ballot, was triggered by deputy, Lauri Läänemets (SDE) resigning in protest at curbs on MPs' speaking time when presenting their amendments to the marriage definition referendum bill.
Läänemets' leaving his post would have required the chair, Anti Poolamets (EKRE), who was overseeing the online meeting Friday at which MPs put forward their amendments, to also step, down, under Riigikogu regulations.
An off-scheduled committee meeting was taking place in any case Saturday to go through the amendments proposals, over 9,000 of them, in the hopes of keeping the legislative process on track. The chair and deputy chair elections have held up this further, Poolamets said, with discussion of the amendments continuing and the online session involving MPs likely to be delayed until late Saturday evening.
Poolamets had been having such a virtual meeting Friday when his office was entered by Läänemets, together with Reform leader Kaja Kallas, and Reform MP Valdo Randpere. Opposition MPs, who tabled most of the amendments – many of them particularly whimsical in their nature – say Poolamets was hindering the democratic process by limiting MPs' speaking time, replete with electronic timer, to seven minutes, and muting them via the online mic, if they overran their time.
Opposition MPs leave constitutional affairs committee
MPs from the two opposition parties, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), left Saturday's constitutional affairs committee meeting Saturday in protest at the committee chair's use of a mic mute function.
The protest came a day after Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas, deputy chair of the constitutional affairs committee Lauri Läänemets (SDE) and Reform MP Valdo Randpere, entered the office of the committee's chair, Anti Poolamets (EKRE) Friday, where he had been holding a meeting via remote link-up and planned to let MPs speak on the bill and its amendments in the same way. The three opposition MPs objected to MPs only being given seven minutes to speak, saying that this curtailed the democratic process, as did Poolamets' muting MPs' mics if they overran their allotted time.
Lauri Läänemets also stepped down as deputy committee chair, triggering an election both for his post and that of Anti Poolamets, which took place earlier on Saturday. In the event, both men were returned to their posts following a secret ballot, and the meeting resumed later on the Saturday.
If the referendum bill does not pass its second reading in time, the planned referendum date of April 18 may be in jeopardy. If it does not pass its second reading at all, the referendum would not be held at all. The bill passed its first reading on December 14.
The constitutional committee is one of the Riigikogu's standing committees and oversees, among other things, bills amending the constitution – the original intention of Poolamets party with respect to marriage definition - and bills regulating the activities of the Riigikogu, the president, the government, the national audit office, the courts and the Chancellor of Justice, as well as bills on citizenship, aliens, and elections, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
This article was updated to include a photo gallery of the meeting's events, and to include a report that opposition MPs had left the constitutional committee meeting again on Saturday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte