EKRE leader rebuffs presidential invite to discuss political situation

Finance minister and EKRE leader Martin Helme.
Finance minister and EKRE leader Martin Helme. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Finance minister and leader of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Martin Helme says he does not plan to meet with President Kersti Kaljulaid next week. The president asked several party leaders and Riigikogu party group chairs to meet with her next week, after tumultuous events on Friday surrounding the passage of a bill which, if voted in, would open the way for a referendum on the definition of marriage.

Helme wrote on his social media account Saturday that he did not intend to meet the president next week, saying that the reason for calling the meeting listed in the original invite differed from what later became clear as its true intention.

Helme wrote: "Last week, I received an invitation to meet with Kersti Kaljulaid to discuss the political year which has now begun."

"This was set up, we agreed upon a time. Today, however, a notification appears on Kaljulaid's Facebook account that the real purpose of the meeting was to bring party leaders to order, deliver a lecture on minorities, and issue instructions on how to end the divisions in society," he went on, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

"It does not suit me if I am invited to a meeting for one reason, but then it turns out that the purpose of the meeting was quite different. I have canceled our meeting, telling the correspondent that there is no need to look for a new time," he concluded.

Prsesident Kaljulaid called Helme and the other leaders to the meeting 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 saw the committee's deputy chair, Lauri Läänemets (SDE), Reform leader Kaja Kallas and Reform MP Valdo Vandpere entering the committee chair's Riigikogu office while an online meeting was in progress. The purpose of the meeting, hosted by the committee's chair, Anti Poolamets (EKRE) was to give MPs the floor in regard to the over 9,000 amendment proposals to the bill on the marriage definition referendum. The dissenting parties said that confining MPs to a few minutes each, and muting their mic if they overran, represented a breach of democratic procedure.

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, adding that democracy entailed duties of the majority towards the minority, a need for cooperation and finding common ground, and meeting the public's expectations that parliamentarians follow the laws they have established.

The planned meetings are to run Tuesday to Thursday; also on the invite list is Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), opposition Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas and Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder, as well as leaders of three parties' Riigikogu groups, Kersti Sarapuu (Center), Siim Pohlak (EKRE) and Priit Sibul (Isamaa).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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