Jüri Ratas (Center) says that he will likely seek reelection as Riigikogu speaker when his current term is up. This does not mean that the chamber and its work practices are not in need of reform, he adds.
Ratas said that assuming the current Reform/Center coalition continues, he will run for reelection as President of the Riigikogu again in the spring, adding that in all likelihood his deputies, Martin Helme (EKRE) and Hanno Pevkur (Reform) would also seek reelection.
As to the 101 MPs themselves, recent revelations that one of the Riigikogu's number – from Ratas' party in fact – had been moonlighting as a taxi driver and using a well-known ride hailing app suggest a lack of motivation or taking ownership of the job, from some members at least.
Ratas said that raising salaries, from their current level of €4,399, would not be the solution, though admitted that the day-to-day work of the legislature could be made more engaging and challenging.
Better communication between legislature and executive was, he said, a viable solution to parliament's current miasma, but this would mean that MPs would need assistants in order to bring their capacity up to speed to do so.
"It is clear that in the executive power, i.e. at the ministries, this capacity is many times higher, which is not normal," he told ERR's news webcast "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday.
Still, the Riigikogu should not be seen as an exclusive club, but should and in fact does represent a cross-section of society.
"The Riigikogu is not some sort of gilded cage for which only the best are chosen," Ratas said.
"It is a cross-section of Estonian society, featuring Estonian people, with their various joys and sorrows," he said, adding that seeking work outside the chamber, simply to keep in touch and be professionally competent, was normal and natural.
This might include, for instance, working in local government (around a half of Riigikogu MPs also hold local government seats – ed.) or in education.
As for taxi driving, Ratas said: "I told Martin (Repinski – the MP in question-ed.) that during Riigikogu business hours, which primarily means its sittings and committees, this type of work cannot be done."
Outside of Riigikogu hours, he would presumably be free to pick up fares, in Ratas' view.
As President of the Riigikogu – speaker in other words – Ratas controls much of the chamber's business and the post is seen as very much a key one, just as its local equivalent in the 79 municipalities is seen to be virtually on a par with (or ahead of) that of municipal mayor.
That Ratas holds the role now relates to an event which marks its first anniversary Wednesday.
Media reports emerged on January 12 last year that a Tallinn real estate development was the subject of an Internal Security Service (ISS) investigation into suspected corruption, bribery and money laundering – revelations which prompted Ratas' resignation hours later, in the small hours of January 13, and the collapse of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition.
Center remained in office, as the junior partner in a coalition with Reform, which entered office at the end of January 2021, while Ratas was elected Riigikogu speaker in March of last year, after Henn Põlluaas' (EKRE) first term expired.
Editor: Andrew Whyte