Leader of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme is garnering support in the Riigikogu for a vote of no confidence in Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) this week.
"I will be introducing our text to different parties' delegates today and discussing to what extent they are willing to support it and what the timeframe could be," Helme told ERR.
"We don't know how much longer the current government will last, and I don't want Kersna to get away with it in the Riigikogu," he added.
"Our criticism is very clear. The minister knowingly broke the law on several occasions, whereas it goes beyond a misdemeanor for which proceedings have been launched and rather constitutes a crime. The minister's political decision resulted in €5 million of taxpayer money simply ending up in someone's pocket, and that sort of a thing is a criminal offense in the Republic of Estonia," Helme suggested.
Helme said he urges Center MPs (Reform coalition partner – ed.) to join the motion but added that even if they did, it might not lead to a government collapsed.
"It might not mean that. While we can somehow understand Reform refraining from going after its own minister, why should any other part condone such conduct?" Helme said.
Chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) Lauri Läänemets told ERR that even though Kersna's conduct as minister cannot be approved of, SDE MPs are unlikely to join the initiative.
"I remain skeptical in terms of whether we can afford to do that today. We believe that the minister should not remain at her post. However, we also need to think about what the motion passing would achieve in the ongoing government crisis. Should it result in the government falling apart immediately and the formation of a new one with EKRE in it, the Social Democrats would like no part in that," Läänemets said.
The SDE leader urged Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to recall Kersna herself.
"We are critical of the education minister's work in general. With Kersna, it is not just about procurements but also outstanding university public-law contracts, teachers' salaries etc.," he said.
Läänemets said that SDE will discuss the matter of the education minister at its board meeting.
Center Party whip Jaanus Karilaid told ERR that Kersna's conduct should be investigated by the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Committee. "In terms of why this particular company was picked, who did it and based on what was the decision made. Listen to representatives of the company, the minister and her adviser. The position of the National Audit Office should also be heeded, with Auditor General Janar Holm meeting with Center MPs on that. Right now, we need information after which activities can be planned," Karilaid said.
The Ministry of Finance, after analyzing its counterpart for education and research's COVID-19 rapid test tenders from last year, has brought misdemeanor proceedings against Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform).
The initial tender to procure coronavirus rapid tests for schools in October of 2021 contacted only a single bidder, with the ministry ending up paying €5.1 million for two million tests. The ministry's second contractor was also found via an unannounced negotiated public tender, and even though the price had now come down to €2.37 million for 2.1 million tests, an audit of the education ministry's conduct found that the second tender should have been handled as a standard public procurement since the unforeseen need criterion was no longer present.
Editor: Marcus Turovski