While there was discussion earlier on Wednesday to withdraw the controversial marriage referendum bill, Riigikogu constitutional committee chairman Anti Poolamets (EKRE) decided to put it to a vote later in the evening. Only 29 MPs voted for the referendum bill, drawing an end to the saga.
When the bill was finally put to a vote in the end of Wednesday's sitting, it received 29 votes for and 49 votes against, meaning the long-debated and controversial public referendum on the definition of marriage will not take place in April, as initially planned.
To start Wednesday's sitting, Center Party MP Andrei Korobeinik proposed the Riigikogu withdraw the lone agenda point, the EKRE political group did not support Center's proposal and constitutional committee chair Anti Poolamets continued with a presentation.
Riigikogu board members Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) proposed to reject the multiple protests made by the opposition in regards to not having sufficient time to present their 9,400 amendment proposals to the referendum bill. Siim Kallas (Reform) did not support their notion however and the board did not reach a consensus, leading to the protests going to a vote.
49 MPs voted for rejecting the protests, not enough to hit the majority against 48 votes against.
The Riigikogu board then decided to accept the opposition's obstruction as a device to oppose parliament, but noted that Riigikogu work should not be obstructed so extensively as the amendment proposals have done.
Seeder said: "According to the Constitution, ensuring the parliament's operation must be ensured in every situation and an obstruction cannot lead to the Riigikogu stopping its everyday legislative work."
That vote also did not pass with 41 MPs voting in favor, not enough for a majority.
Several breaks taken before final vote
Firstly, the opposition's amendment proposals went to a vote. Social Democrat Jevgeni Ossinovski announced that he wishes to take two amendment proposals out of a group of amendments put together by the committee.
This however caused much confusion in the session hall and Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) announced that the board must discuss Ossinovski's question and has to take a brea.
After a short break, the board decided to accept Ossinovski's proposal and the vote moved forward with a slightly adjusted amendment package. When the Riigikogu speaker finally put the amendment topic to a vote, Andrei Korobeinik (Center) asked for a two-minute break.
After Korobeinik's break, Siim Pohlak (EKRE) asked for another eight minutes of time: "Center's political group has disappeared off, let's give them a chance to return."
After two separate time-outs, the marriage referendum bill was finally put to a vote. All EKRE MPs voted for the bill, seven Isamaa members - Heiki Hepner, Aivar Kokk, Tarmo Kruusimäe, Andres Metsoja, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Sven Sester and Priit Sibul - also voted for organizing a national referendum to change the definition of marriage in the Family Law Act.
Center Party did not participate in the vote. As an exception, Imre Sooäär, who is non-partisan but participates as a Center MP, voted against the vote. The bill saw the referendum taking place on April 18 2021 with the question: "Should marriage in Estonia remain a union between a man and woman?"
Once the vote wrapped up, the speaker had to call the sitting. Before that however, he stood up and started walking off. After remembering procedure he went back and announced the sitting's end. "Well, that's that. The sitting has ended," Põlluaas said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste