AK: SDE likely to vote against Martin Helme as deputy speaker

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Martin Helme (left), likely Riigikogu deputy speaker from next week, chatting to the probably speaker, Jüri Ratas, while the pair were in office in the last coalition. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) may vote against Martin Helme (EKRE) as one of two deputy Riigikogu speakers in a vote due next week, despite the party saying it agrees with the basis on which Helme is being put forward, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday evening.

Martin Helme is leader of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), now in opposition, and was finance minister in the last administration.

Lauri Läänemets, the party's deputy chair, told AK that SDE in principle goes along with standard practice, whereby the largest opposition party (currently EKRE with 19 seats – ed.) automatically gets one of the two deputy speaker posts, they would nonetheless not vote for Helme.

Läänemets said: "Considering how up to the present EKRE has influenced the work of the Riigikogu without cause or reason, simply by filibustering and obstructing work, it is difficult to think that we should support its continuation."

Läänemets may have been referring to the processing of the now-canned bill on the marriage definition referendum, but his own party is hardly innocent of filibustering practices either; last summer SDE leader Indrek Saar and then-deputy chair Katri Raik produced tens of thousands of sheets of A4 paper, intended to symbolize thousands of amendments, to another still-born bill, this time to abolish the party financing watchdog body.

Läänemets added that holding a Riigikogu sitting at 5 a.m. Wednesday as scheduled is another example of EKRE obstruction tactics. The vote itself takes place on Thursday.

However, with 10 seats at the 101-seat chamber, even without the support of SDE's MPs, Martin Helme is likely to pass the vote on his candidacy as deputy speaker, joined by Hanno Pevkur (Reform) and with ex-prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) as speaker.

The trio will replace Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) as speaker and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) and Siim Kallas (Reform) as his deputies.

The role of speaker, officially President of the Riigikogu, is a key one in national politics, arguably more influential than that even of Prime Minister, with the two deputy speaker posts hardly being insignificant.

Martin Helme for his part rejected rumors of a back-room ploy to block his candidacy, allegedly cooked up between SDE and Isamaa.

"If such a plan were to be brewed, I think I would have heard of it already," Helme told AK.

"We already agreed on no alternative candidates from the [Reform/Center] coalition and no surprises, but SDE have signaled that not all members of their group might want to support my candidacy," he added.

Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told AK that in any case opposition parties must cooperate on tactical issues and should stand by the agreement that the largest opposition party should get one of the two deputy speaker seats.

Isamaa is now in opposition with EKRE and SDE; the latter was in opposition also during the previous Center/EKRE/Isamaa administration, while Reform entered office with Center in January.

The latter's chair, former prime minister and Rigiikogu-speaker-in-waiting Jüri Ratas says that the coalition agreement signed between his party and Reform in January requires a Center speaker and Reform deputy speaker, meaning these two posts are likely assured, with Helme's candidacy the only question mark.

Siim Kallas held the post for Reform in the outgoing composition, while the party was the largest opposition party (and indeed the largest overall by seats). Whether EKRE's candidate has to be Martin Helme and not another MP was not reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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