Ratas, Helme remain in running for Riigikogu second speaker post

Jüri Ratas (Center).
Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While a coalition deal is expected to be announced over the Easter weekend ahead of the XV Riigikogu taking up its seats on Monday, the three opposition parties, Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, have come up with an agreement of their own, on how to divide up seats on Riigikogu committees, and on boards and organizations outside the Riigikogu.

However, one area where they have not made any public statement of agreement on concerns the board of the Riigiikogu itself.

This comprises the President of the Riigikogu – the Riigikogu speaker in other words – and their two deputies.

Ratas held the speaker position at the XIV Riigikogu, but this will now go to a coalition member, as will the post of first deputy speaker, leaving the remaining deputy post to the opposition – if they can agree and vote accordingly.

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of the smallest of the three opposition parties, Isamaa, says the overall approach this time around has been a bit different, mainly due to the substantial majority the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE incoming coalition enjoys.

Speaking to ERR's radio news Thursday, Jüri Ratas, meanwhile, said of the dividing up of the three Riigikogu board posts that: "This all depends on the reality of political power today."

"Nowadays, the coalition has 60 seats at the Riigikogu. It hinges on how they see the division. There is a certain distribution that has been established, whereby the opposition is also given responsibility on the Riigikogu committees, but how the new coalition will go ahead – I can't say that," Ratas continued.

Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Currently, the Riigikogu does not have a board in place, after the XIV Riigikogu board was dissolved on the last day of March.

However, the XV Riigikogu is due to take up its seats on Monday.

The second Riigikogu deputy speaker is traditionally taken by the largest opposition party, which in this case is the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which has 17 seats – though only one more than the Center Party, also in opposition.

At the same time, since the vote is by secret ballot, it can be the case that an opposition MP would vote for a coalition candidate (and vice versa).

While opposition leaders have expressed the importance of not splitting the vote on second speaker – which might lead to it going to a coalition party member – they have also been playing their hands very close to their chest in recent days and as the new Riigikogu session approaches

While Ratas is in the running, so too is EKRE's leader, Martin Helme.

EKRE leader Martin Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

This brings the third opposition party, Isamaa, to a position already well familiar – that of holding the balance, even as the party is down to eight seats in the XV Riigikogu.

Isamaa's chair, Helir-Valdor Seeder, said his party will only decide on Monday, ahead of the convening of the first Riigikogu session, whether the party's votes will go to Helme or to Ratas. 

Seeder declined to say who his favored choice would be; Helme told ERR he had received no clear signal of an Isamaa vote in his favor, either.

At the same time, Helme said, should Ratas win out, then EKRE would get – under the terms of the agreement between the three parties – the post of chair of the Riigkogu's special anti-corruption committee

On the other hand, if Helme gets the second speaker post, the anti-corruption chair would go to Isamaa; the state budget control committee chair post to Center.

The three parties have reportedly also divided up the Riigikogu committee deputy chair posts due to them, while opposition MPs often get posts in state bodies such as the State Forest Management Authority, the RMK, and at the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, Seeder said.

These have not yet been agreed upon, between Isamaa, Center and EKRE, Seeder added, as much hinges on what and how many seats the coalition takes.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: ERR Radio news, interviewer: Johannes Voltri.

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