President: Marriage referendum could be tied to Riigikogu confidence vote

End of the year interview with President Kersti Kaljulaid.
End of the year interview with President Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

On Monday evening, President Kersti Kaljulaid turned to all Riigikogu political groups with a proposal to tie the planned public referendum on the definition of marriage with political responsibility for the Riigikogu. This would mean if people did not support the marriage bill, extraordinary elections would take place.

President Kaljulaid emphasized in a letter (in Estonian) sent out to all Riigikogu political groups that in accordance to the Family Law Act in force currently, a marriage is contracted between a man and a woman.

"The planned marriage referendum is meant to confirm this fact, while it is not clear what the effects of the public survey would be for a different result. Considering survey results that show that most Estonians do not consider such a referendum important or necessary at this time, I would call it reasonable to spend the time and money spent on the referendum on solving the tiring viral crisis," Kaljulaid penned.

At the same time, the president pointed out that she understand that the Riigikogu majority has the desire to conduct a referendum on the definition of marriage. In accordance with the Constitution, there is a possibility to do so - section 105 says "the Riigikogu has the right to submit a bill or other affairs of state to a referendum."

"Currently, the public vote is planned to be conducted as another matter of state affairs which will not bring forth any political responsibility. If we are dealing with a matter of such importance to the parliamentary majority that conducting the vote is unavoidable, it would be honest to connect it to political responsibility. I propose to stop the current proceedings and to present the question as in accordance with the Constitution's section 105. In its essence, it would be a vote of confidence of the current composition of the Riigikogu," the president wrote.

As of section 105 in the Constitution, if a referendum were to find majority support among the Estonian people, the president would announce it as in force immediately thereafter. If the question posed on the referendum does not find a majority however, the president would announce extraordinary Riigikogu elections.

"It would be honest behavior toward voters and a step toward restoring the trust and dignity of parliament and politics. The Estonian people wants to be proud of the Riigikogu and I call you to give them reason to do so," Kaljulaid called on politicians.

Kaljulaid: Everything about the public vote has gone wrong

Kaljulaid also commented on the marriage referendum topic on ETV's current affairs show "Ringvaade" on Monday. "I have followed the discussion from the start. It has been a process where everything that could go wrong has. The wording is such that we have so far still not understood what are the consequences of a 'yes' or 'no' answer and if the answers are legally equal," the president said.

"In addition, the opposition's amendment proposals, most of which are filthy, have at times given an option to understand Estonian politics in different ways. We know that the words of politicians can be torn out of context, interpreted and used against us. That option has been opened. And of course, the uncensored amendment proposals. They are all deplorable, [the obstruction effort] has also gone wrong," Kaljulaid added.

She said the procedure has also gone wrong in parliament: "Today, there is a question of what will happen if the Riigikogu approves the question of the referendum. Would the Chancellor of Justice (Ülle Madise - ed.) agree that the process has been legal or would she not and instead turn to the Supreme Court. It seems like an unending Candlemas," Kaljulaid told ERR.

The president also called the leaders of parliamentary parties to Kadriorg to discuss the current political situation. EKRE leader and Minister of Finance Martin Helme has already refused the invitation, claiming that the reason for calling the meeting listed in the original invite differed from what later became clear as its true intention.

"Maybe he will change his mind. There is a time slot in my schedule to discuss something," Kaljulaid commented.

President Kersti Kaljulaid on ETV's "Ringvaade" on Monday, January 11. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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