Currently, only the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) wants Reform MP Marko Mihkelson to step down as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu after being embroiled in a scandal to go public late last week. Other parties either want to wait and see or see no reason for Mihkelson to resign.
EKRE MP Henn Põlluaas told ERR that as this is such an disgraceful scandal, Mihkelson should step down from his position.
"I think so, yes, that the seriousness of this matter would demand it, although every effort is being made to downplay it," he said.
"We have issues in our society for which we have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever, and one of them is precisely such child exploitation," Põlluaas said. "And the taking of such photos as we've heard described is certainly one of these issues. The fact that this was covered up for several years and that the Reform Party knew that such pictures exist — that is exceedingly disgraceful, and I think this still requires a response, regardless of whether the police launched a criminal investigation [into it] or not. But the taking of such pictures is absolutely, positively unacceptable."
Center MP and Foreign Affairs Committee deputy chair Enn Eesmaa, meanwhile, refrained from taking a concrete position on the matter.
"It's impossible for me to comment on anything related to Marko Mihkelson, because I should have an opinion on that and on those who have said or thought something," Eesmaa said. "None of us know anything more exactly about the situation itself. Marko is my colleague, and so long as nothing important has been proven or decided in court, I don't intend to make any sort of decisive conclusions. Much less any that could impact or steer Marko's future work or lot."
The chairs of Riigikogu committees are divided up between coalition parties, and the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in accordance with the relevant agreement, is someone from the Reform Party, the deputy chair continued.
"Marko Mihkelson continuing as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee depends on how he personally or also the parliamentary group decides," Eesmaa said.
MP Mihhail Lotman, Isamaa's representative in the Riigikogu committee, said that he currently sees no reason for Mihkelson to step down as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"If the police believe that there was no case — if child protection didn't find anything there..." Lotman said. "What I've read in the papers on this topic has been conflicting information. In any case, I see no reason right now — at least so long as some sort of additional circumstances don't emerge — to distrust him in any way. That is my personal opinion; we have not discussed this within the party."
Social Democrat and MP Indrek Saar declined to provide a concrete position on the matter prior to discussing it with the SDE parliamentary group.
"I think first we'll discuss within our parliamentary group what our position is," Saar explained.
"Of course when an accusation like that has been thrown out there, then that will require comprehensive responses to it to be provided as well," he continued. "Knowing that police typically take such accusations very seriously, fully involves expert analysis and provides its own assessment — I am not currently aware of the police not having completed this entire necessary process already. And they have drawn their own conclusions. We need clarity regarding what those conclusions ultimately are and what that means politically."
Võrklaev: Mihkelson right person for committee chair
Reform whip Mart Võrklaev said that Mihkelson should continue serving as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee as he is very competent in foreign policy.
According to Võrklaev, the position of chair of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee is vital and Marko Mihkelson has extensive experience in this post, which is why there is no need to remove him from this position right now.
"Marko has provided his clarifications," the Reform whip said. "Right now we trust our person, our person's clarifications, and believe that Marko with his experience and long-term political experience, with his contacts, is certainly the right person for this position today."
He justified his assessment with the fact that law enforcement agencies have not launched an investigation into or punished Mihkelson. He also cited the fact that the matter in question is a personal family issue.
"The question is whether something of the sort has taken place then as claimed by the press, or claimed by one side, or things are the way Marko Mihkelson tells them," Võrklaev said. "As we haven't seen those photos, and don't want to see them, and don't know the details of this incident, I think condemning someone based on that is likewise premature."
ERR was unable to reach Reform MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member Eerik-Niiles Kross or Mihkelson himself for comment on Monday.
Estonian dailies Postimees and Delfi reported Thursday that Foreign Affairs Committee and Reform MP Marko Mihkelson had taken inappropriate photos of minors. Mihkelson has said that the scandal is rooted in a custody battle over the children in question.
Editor: Aili Vahtla