Opposition parties still lack consensus on Riigikogu vice-chair candidate

Martin Helme (left) and Jüri Ratas look set to compete for the position of second Riigikogu speaker.
Martin Helme (left) and Jüri Ratas look set to compete for the position of second Riigikogu speaker. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Who will take the post of Riigikogu speaker is still up in the air, as are the positions of the two deputy speakers, with just over a week to go until the XV Riigikogu takes up its seats, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday.

The XIV Riigikogu's board – speaker Jüri Ratas (Center) and his two deputies saw its powers end on Friday, while there are just four working days, bearing in mind next weekend is the Easter break, until the XV Riigikogu is set to convene for the first time, on Monday, April 10.

One of the first things parliament will do will elect the incoming Riigikogu board.

Traditionally, the speaker and the first deputy speaker, come from the coalition parties, while the second deputy has tended to be drawn from an opposition party.

This time around, with the entry into office of Eesti 200, and the fact the coalition-to-be has 60 seats, a very healthy majority, things are a little more complex.

Additionally, the three opposition parties have not come to a consensus on who should be the candidate for second deputy speaker – a lack of unity on this may even lead to the coalition parties getting that post also.

Jüri Ratas, XIV Riigkogu speaker, told AK that: "Yes, that the Center Party is putting up its candidate – and it's Jüri Ratas."

Jüri Ratas would not be running unopposed though, Jüri Ratas told AK...

"Then comes the competition, it seems to me, between opposition candidates," he added.

Standard practice would have it that the post of second deputy chair of the Riigikogu – the second deputy speaker – goes to a member of the largest opposition party, which is the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), though only by a cat's whisker; EKRE has 17 seats to Center's 16.

EKRE leader Martin Helme, who had already been a deputy speaker at the XIV Riigikogu, told AK that he: "Will definitely be standing as a candidate, because Estonian political practice, plus a very long-held convention, has it that the largest opposition party gets the post, so there is a representative of the opposition on the board. "

"I understand that anyone can apply, but I don't think sets a pretty good tone if the opposition were to disperse like that," Helme added, implying that the three opposition parties, his own, Center and Isamaa, should be united on this issue at least.

In any case, it is not clear who will get to be Rigiikogu speaker. Again, precedent has it that this goes to the second-largest coalition party, which was indeed the case when Ratas became speaker in early 2021 (when Reform and Center were in office together).

This time around, it would go to the newcomers to the Riigikogu, Eesti 200, though nothing has been publicly announced or even, Reform's Riigikogu chief whip Mart Võrklaev told AK, decided on.

Võrklaev said: "The current desire and plan is that, since we know that the Riigikogu will first convene on April 10, by that time we will have the agreements in place, so we can immediately elect the chair and vice-chair, and from there on in form a government."

Meanwhile Isamaa's leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, claimed that Eesti 200 may trade-off the speaker position for other senior posts, for instance European Commissioner, or a brace of ministerial positions.

Whoever takes up the Riigikogu speaker position and the two deputy posts must pass a vote, in any case; this is in the form of a secret ballot, meaning in theory coalition MPs could vote for opposition candidates and vice versa, and at least MPs will vote for candidates from other parties.

Ratas noted that when he became speaker, for instance, this must have been the case, since Center did not have enough votes on its own for him to have made it.

Helme said that while Ratas had lobbied coalition MPs for votes, he, Helme, had not.

Meanwhile Isamaa, with eight seats, seems set to retain its perennial holding-the-balance status; Seeder said that as for the position of second vice chair, the vote could hinge on his party.

"For this reason, we don't want to be left out of the decision-making process in a situation where things actually depend on our decision. We will certainly discuss and form our own positions," he said.

One thing that is set to change with the incoming coalition is the division of ministerial posts. Whereas traditionally, these have been divided up equally – for instance in the Reform-Center coalition there were seven posts each (excluding the prime minister), and in the incumbent, outgoing Reform-SDE-Isamaa administration, each party had five ministers, this is likely to no longer be the case.

Instead, portfolios will be divided up, it has been reported, in proportion to the size of the party by seats.

Reform has 37 seats, Eesti 200, 14 and SDE has nine, following the March 5 election.

Riigikogu speaker, properly, President of the Riigikogu, is seen as highly significant role and referred to by some as on a par with that of the head of state, since the position oversees all the in and the out of business at the legislature.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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