Prime minister comfortably survives no-confidence Riigikogu vote

Kaja Kallas before the Riigikogu at Wednesday's sitting, where a motion of no-confidence in her is prime minister failed to pass.
Kaja Kallas before the Riigikogu at Wednesday's sitting, where a motion of no-confidence in her is prime minister failed to pass. Source: ERR

A no-confidence motion in Kaja Kallas (Reform) as prime minister failed to pass at the Riigikogu Wednesday evening, after finding 36 votes in favor to 55 against, at the 101-seat chamber, on the second-to-last day before it goes on summer recess.

Kallas, who appeared before the Riigikogu to answer questions as per standard practice used the time to state that defense spend, one of the main bones of contention which the opposition Isamaa and Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) parties listed in their motion of no-confidence, will be €59 million higher in 2022 than this year, and will remain higher than the 2021 level for the next few years.

She also rejected a charge that her government had mismanaged the economy, adding that the state budget was in bad shape upon entering office with Center – the party which had been the largest of the three making up the previous coalition.

Kallas said: "It was a surprise how irresponsibly and lightly promises about the future had been made without any cover," Kallas said.

"Consolidated government sector debt was close to €5 billion by the end of the year. Compared with 2019, debt doubled. It was also the highest figure in the last 20 years," Kallas added, according to BNS.

"The government I lead is honest. My government is not going to create a state budget strategy where there are cuts without substance, and we are not going to pretend [otherwise]."

"With the economy growing again, and with its partial support, we will reduce the fiscal deficit by more than €500 million, because sound public finances will create a better basis for preparing for the next possible setbacks and crises, and will ensure a strong economy and a more prosperous life," she added, also noting that her cabinet sees relations with NATO and with the U.S. – she had met POTUS Joe Biden in Brussels at the beginning of the week – remained paramount.

Ninety-four MPs were present to vote. Since at least 51 MPs needed to have voted in favor of the motion, it failed by 17 votes. BNS reported the outcome as predictable.

The national conservative and right-wing Isamaa and EKRE, in office with Center in the last coalition, between them have 34 seats meaning they had not been able to attract any additional votes needed for the motion to pass.

The other opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats (SDE), say they are tabling a no-confidence motion of their own, which is likely to focus more on Reform's trademark austerity measures.

EKRE chair Martin Helme said that since late January, when Kallas ascended to the post, politics in Estonia moved in a direction which requires the strongest possible parliamentary reaction.

"The current government is knowingly causing harm to the Estonian state, which is why Kaja Kallas has lost our trust in her as head of government," the motion's text read, continuing to enumerate mismanagement of the economy and defense and security as the main issues, together with harm done to rural areas and responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaja Kallas also told the Riigikogu that her government would be sticking to its promise of a "tax peace", a rather odd-sounding term in English but which is a direct translation of the Estonian and essentially means no significant tax hikes or changes to the structure of the taxation system.

She also took questions from the floor during the session Wednesday, the penultimate day of business before parliament breaks up for summer recess.

Government ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu but regularly appear before it to answer questions and report on policy and activities.

A recent vote of no-confidence in Kalle Laanet (Reform) as defense minister also failed.

MPs Henn Põlluaas (EKRE), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), Jürgen Ligi (Reform), Indrek Saar (SDE), and Imre Sooäär (Centre) asked questions on behalf of their party Riigikogu groups at Wednesday's session, the government office says.

While Kaja Kallas was opposition leader, several no-confidence motions were brought against the coalition and individual ministers.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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