EKRE chair: Government dealt with protesters Minsk-style

Martin Helme.
Martin Helme. Source: ERR

Chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Martin Helme, told ETV current affairs show "Esimene stuudio" Wednesday evening that the government broke up recent protests against coronavirus restrictions on Toompea Hill with similar means to those used in Belarus and in the Russian Federation.

"These were spontaneous protests against the government and their government reacted in breaking them up. The actual problem was created by the government's decision to disband the protests. This is one of the great heritages of the Kaja Kallas (Reform) government, which we will remember about her unsuccessful prime minister era. The government was started by dispersing its critics with the use of dogs," Helme said.

The show's host asked when the police acted as aggressively in Estonia as they have been acting towards protestors in Belarus and Russia. "They are using the exact same measures," Helme said.

"People were held with fictitious legal paragraphs, taken to a police bus, fined for nothing. People were scared by police dogs, their things were confiscated," Helme added.

Helme noted that in his opinion, the Director-General of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Elmar Vaher, is completely incompetent to holdthe position.

'We are the parliament's only real opposition party'

Regarding EKRE's plan to initiate a no-confidence vote against Kaja Kallas, Helme said that unfortunately, EKRE is currently the only opposition party in the parliament that criticizes the government and it reaches the public.

"The most liberal government of all times is in power which just brings political decisions to the table in a way that even their voters understand it's time to look for other political parties to vote for at the next elections," Helme said.

"The Social Democrats have created an illusory world where they support the liberal government even though the government keeps watering them down. The Isamaa party's role in the opposition means internal opposition," Helme said.

Helme said that Isamaa didn't say no to the no-confidence vote, but that they need extra time to deliberate.

"I find it hard to imagine how they can just watch it for a long time that we deal with defending national security and they with something else. I don't say it light-heartedly, I really wish we had a conservative partner, but currently, we don't," Helme said.

Cutting the Defense Forces Orchestra is a protest against standing together

Although the no-confidence vote is targeted towards Kaja Kallas, Helme thinks that the Minister of Defense, Kalle Laanet (Reform) is also worthy of same.

"He didn't stand for his area of business behind the government's table and when he was appointed to make the cuts decisions, he didn't think the decisions through. He has let his employees bring ideas to the table about which he doesn't have in-depth information. This idea is basically a protest against the cut plans. These kinds of cuts are the hardest to sell to the public."

Helme was referring to recent reports that the defense forces' military orchestra may be disbanded or merged with the police orchestra, as a cost-savings measure.

In Helme's opinion, the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), Martin Herem, is also unworthy of his position.

'Our political group in Narva is a curiosity'

Regarding Larissa Olenina, Russia's Victory Day activist, joining Narva's EKRE political group, Helme said that they are not planning to accept her into the party.

"EKRE's political group in Narva is a curio. During the last elections, we didn't participate," Helme said.

"Olenina says she likes the conservative family policy, the conservative immigration policy and our position on the energy industry," he added.

The largely Russian-speaking eastern Estonian town has long been a Center Party stronghold, but Center has been losing support nationwide, including from the Russian-speaking populace. Some of the latter are thought to have become supporters of the socially-conservative EKRE.

'Drinks in the car' scandal won't stop Ratas from running for president

When asked whether the "drinks in the car" scandal surrounding the former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) reportedly extreme expenses on gifts, dinners, personal meetings and drinks during his time as prime minister put to bed any thoughts of Jüri Ratas as a possible candidate for president, Helme said he thought not.

"I don't think so. But I will clearly put it in the context we have in today's government. When this government was made, it was formed by a very small circle of people, and the information about what was agreed for the presidency is known by a very small circle of people. But as far as a wider circle of people know, the Center Party nominates a candidate and, if that candidate is suitable, the Reform Party supports him, and if they both support him, there is an approximate chance that the person will be elected president. Not at the Riigikogu, but via the electoral college," Helme said.

"It can be seen that the Center Party is thinking of one very specific candidate, and it can also be seen that the Reform Party wants the Center Party to nominate someone else," he said.

Jüri Ratas has not publicly declared any intention to run, or not to run, in autumn's presidential elections, but has been widely tipped to do so. Incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid has hinted that she might stand for a second, consecutive five-year term.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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