Former minister of education and research Mailis Reps is stepping down as leader of the Center Party group in the parliament as well as from the position of deputy chair of the party. Reps is currently being investigated for misuse of government money.
The junior partner in the government coalition Center Party discussed on Tuesday the ongoing investigation concerning Reps and decided that the present situation calls for electing a new leader for the Center Party group in the Riigikogu. Reps will not continue as deputy chair of the party, either.
Chairman Jüri Ratas said that as a result of a joint discussion between the party group and the management board, it was decided that Reps needs to focus on defending herself in the ongoing investigation and that "the party as a whole can move forward in this complex situation with difficult yet necessary changes."
"I would like to thank Mailis, a meritorious and capable politician, for significantly contributing to development in Estonia and to activities of the Center Party both as deputy chair of the party as well as leader of the party group in the Riigikogu and holder of multiple ministerial positions," Ratas said.
The leader of the Center Party has not yet name the new deputy chair on Tuesday, the election of the party group leader will be held at the earliest opportunity.
The board has made a proposal to the group to elect Jaanus Karilaid as group leader and Kersti Sarapuu and Andrei Korobeinik as deputy chairs of the group.
Reps resigned as deputy chair of the party after daily newspaper Õhtuleht reported on Sunday that when she was education minister, the Ministry of Education and Research paid for her 45th birthday dinner in January of 2020. The bill totaled four figures.
Reps stepped down as minister of education in November after it was revealed she used her ministerial car for personal use, including on a family trip to Croatia.
On November 24, the police initiated misdemeanor proceedings against her under a section of the Anti-Corruption Act concerning the corrupt use of public funds.
On February 19, Reps was formally suspected of embezzlement. The suspicion of misappropriation includes the installation of a Jura coffee machine purchased for the ministry, the use of a ministry car with a fuel bill for a Croatian family trip, a €360 bill for accommodation spent and over €1,500 for compensation for family tickets.
Editor: Helen Wright