Ratas: President took powerful step into politics ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

President Kersti Kaljulaid appoints Raul Siem minister of foreign trade and IT.
President Kersti Kaljulaid appoints Raul Siem minister of foreign trade and IT. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said, that in his opinion, President Kersti Kaljulaid has taken a powerful step into politics with her idea to tie the marriage referendum bill to a vote of confidence in the coalition. Ratas said that he doesn't understand what she wants to achieve.

"The proposal of the president is incomprehensible. What is she seeking with this initiative? Is it a referendum for minorities, marriage or something or another kind of bill? Nevertheless, she took a vigorous step into politics," Ratas wrote on social media on Monday.

"If you say A, then B needs to be said as well. Every statement the president of the republic makes has significant weight, which is why it would be fair to tell people, which bill she wants to put up to a referendum," Ratas added.

President Kersti Kaljulaid has invited representatives of the parliamentary parties to discuss the political situation with her on Tuesday and Wednesday and will propose to tie the referendum to a vote of confidence in the coalition.

This would mean that if "no" votes won the referendum - meaning a definition of marriage as between a man and a woman would not be added to the constitution - it would lead to the resignation of the coalition and another election would need to be organized.

Background

The marriage referendum bill was submitted to the Riigikogu at the end of 2020 and the government hoped to pass it in January 2021 as it must be passed three months before the referendum, which the parties want to hold in the spring.

The opposition parties - Reform and the Social Democrats - then added over 9,000 amendments to the bill by the December 31 deadline, hoping to delay its processing, potentially indefinitely. All amendments must be discussed before the bill is passed.

Some of the questions posed as amendments asked dealt with subjects such as euthanasia, working hours, regional policy, fur farms, surrogate mothers, forestry and cycling on sidewalks.

Last week, chairman of the Riigkogu's constitutional committee Anti Poolamets (EKRE) opted to limit the length of time MPs had to present their proposals at the Riigikogu to seven minutes.

This sparked protest from opposition MPs, who entered Poolamets' Riigikogu office on Friday unannounced. The constitutional committee's deputy chair Lauri Läänemets (SDE) resigned which triggered the resignation of Poolamets. Both were reelected over the weekend.

On Sunday, the constitutional committee discussed the opposition's proposed amendments and decided to send five to the Riigikogu's session hall. The committee decided to end the bill's second reading and will present it to a Riigikogu vote.

The potential referendum, backed by EKRE, will seek to add an amendment to the constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman, something which already exists in Estonian law which is not mentioned in the constitution.

The opposition parties Reform and SDE are against it, as well as non-parliamentary parties Eesti 200 and the Estonian Greens. Center Party and Isamaa MPs are split on the issue.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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