Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chair Martin Helme has called President Kersti Kaljulaid's proposal of linking the outcome of a planned referendum on the definition of marriage to a vote of confidence in the Riigkogu a blatant attempt at hijacking power. Helme added that the president does not have the authority to make proposals to parliament.
Helme wrote on his social media account Tuesday that: "Estonia is a parliamentary state according to the Constitution. It is not viable for the President to dissolve the Riigikogu, or to give it instructions. However, she is currently trying to do that, via some strange, blatant, backdoor scheme."
Helme added that the president had picked up the practice after meeting once with Russian President Vladimir Putin (which she did in Moscow in April 2019 – ed.).
"People have gotten the impression that in Estonia too, it is up to the president to dissolve the parliament and shape legislation via decree. Such a rushing to the aid of the opposition and barging into daily politics is not in itself surprising, just as it is not surprising that a person does not have a fully adequate ability to self-assess," Helme went on.
The president stated Monday evening that she was appealing to all Riigikogu political groupings to tie the planned referendum to political responsibility for the Riigikogu.
This would mean that in the event of a "no" vote on the referendum, which, if it goes ahead, will pose the question should marriage in Estonia be defined as between one man and one woman, in legislation, then extraordinary elections should go ahead.
Helme continued that the president has not been directly elected, meaning that her proposal is another attempt to usurp power, and as such undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Bill second reading a drawn out process
The referendum bill, due for its second reading soon, has seen over 9,000 amendment proposals which the Riigikogu's constitutional affairs committee has been looking at. The process hit trouble late last week after opposition MPs protested against the committee's chair, Anti Poolamets (EKRE), restricting MPs floor time on the bill to a few minutes each, which he enforced by holding the session remotely, using a timer and utilizing a mic mute function when members overran their allotted time.
Reform leader Kaja Kallas, party-mate Valdo Randpere and the committee's deputy, opposition MP Lauri Läänemets (SDE) entered Poolamets' office Friday, after which the latter vacated the room and continued the session in another location inside the Riigkogu building.
While the bill was issued by all three coalition parties – Center, Isamaa and EKRE, it was originally a policy of the latter party and one which it got into the coalition agreement signed in April 2019.
If the bill does not get its second reading this week, it may not pass – if it passes – in time to hold the referendum on the scheduled date of April 18. It will also require a third Riigikogu reading.
Daily Postimees has reported that the bill may not pass, depending on how several coalition MPs from Center and Isamaa, whose stance on the issue is not known, vote.
51 votes are required at the 101-seat Riigikogu for a bill to pass. The three coalition parties together have 56 seats.
The president also commented on the matter on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" Monday evening, saying that virtually everything with the referendum process which could have gone wrong, had gone wrong.
"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 l equally valid legally," the president said on the show.
Editor: Andrew Whyte