Ratas: Minister's decision to step down his, and his alone
Center Party leader and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas says that Tõnis Mölder's decision to resign, announced on Wednesday, had been Mölder's alone to make.
"It was his decision," Ratas said Friday.
Following media reports that Mölder had had issues with gambling, Mölder posted on his social media page Friday admitting that he had been a regular sports better, referring to it as a "passion".
He also denied visiting bricks-and-mortar casinos regularly, and said that online betting had been his main focus.
Mölder noted in his post that he had taken action, including asking the tax authority to restrict his access to those gaming sites permitted to operate in Estonia and obtaining psychological counselling. He denied running up debts as the result of gambling.
Ratas said that it is significant that Mölder has admitted his problem and is focussed on recovery.
"Certainly, I personally wish him a much strength on this path, and if he needs it, I will definitely be there for him to support him," Ratas told ERR.
Ratas did not comment on whether the issue would affect Mölder's work at the Riigikogu, where he has returned (government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu even if elected – ed.).
"I very much hope that he will overcome this serious concern and that he has already taken the first steps," Ratas said.
Erki Savisaar (Center) was appointed new environment minister Wednesday at the same press conference where Mölder's resignation was announced. Since they are both from the same party and were both elected, they simply have to trade places and no other MP must vacate their seat, barring the formality of Andrei Korobeinik's being released from his seat Thursday and reinstated Friday.
Korobeinik will be new Riigikogu finance committee chair, a role which Savisaar had held.
While the role of environment minister may conjure up images of purely green-related issues – and indeed Tõnis Mölder represented Estonia at the recent COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland – much of its remit concerns commercial issues such as forestry and forestry policy, a hotly debated topic in Estonia, and the awarding of contracts for major infrastructure projects such as renewable energy generation. The current high energy prices and the ensuing policies also concern the environment ministry, as well as the economic affairs, public administration, social affairs and finance ministries.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte