Opposition continues Riigikogu filibuster at Tuesday's session

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Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu.
Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

After a late night filibuster from the three opposition parties at the Riigikogu, parliament was unable to approve its working week agenda, in addition to the coalition's proposed tax hikes bill not passing its first reading. The opposition says it will continue its obstruction to the bill, which it calls a "cluster law" and which also reduces family benefits, at Tuesday's session.

Despite finishing at midnight, the Riigikogu started at 10 a.m. Tuesday as per its schedule, with speeches and debate to precede the confirmation of the week's agenda.

Monday's marathon session lasted from 3 p.m. until midnight, and Mps were, under the terms of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, able to present an unlimited number of questions and amendment proposals (64 of the former and 63 of the latter), in addition to various procedural matters having to be attended to.

Tuesday morning's session started at 10 a.m., beginning with the implementation period during which amendment proposals can be handed over, and queries submitted.

The same deputy speaker, Toomas Kivimägi, is presiding at Tuesday morning's session, after burning the midnight oil Monday.

Tuesday's session started with the three opposition parties – the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Isamaa and the Center Party, protesting its being held at all, given that the week's agenda was not approved Monday. Monday is, according to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, the only day on which this can be done.

Deputy Speaker Kivimägi responded by saying that under the terms of the same act, if the weekly working agenda is rejected on a Monday, it can be revisited on another day.

ERR reports that according to the law, the Rigikogu is to approve the weekly agenda at the first plenary session of that working week, or at the beginning of any additional session.

Tuesday sessions run 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (standing committee work takes up the after lunch period), while, on Wednesday the Riigikogu session starts at 2 p.m. and lasts until the agenda is exhausted. This means in theory it could run to another midnight finish time – or even later, given that the only requirement is that it not overrun into the start of Thursday's session (which, again, starts at 10 a.m.).

Questions were first put to Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform), at the start of Tuesday's session.

Government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, but regularly appear there for ceremonial duties, to present bills and to answer questions.

Toomas Kivimägi said that the Riigikogu's council of elders had on Monday discussed the possibility of presenting the draft tax changes separately as a possible compromise proposal, adding that, in the coalition's opinion, neither the family allowances nor tax bills represent a "cluster", though the coalition conceded that the bills could also be discussed separately as a way of bringing the impasse to an end.

Kivimägi said that any possible solution is not being coordinated with the government as such, but that if hiving off the two aspects of the raft of proposed legislation would lead to an end to the deadlock, then this would be a likely outcome.

At the same time, there are three opposition parties, each with their own starting point, which might make finding a common solution difficult; Tanel Kiik had said that the opposition had proposed canning the family allowances cut from the drafts.

Jüri Ratas takes over speaker's chair at noon, opts not to have vote on working week agenda

The other Riigikogu deputy speaker, Center Party leader Jüri Ratas, took on the baton at midday.

Ratas said he would not hold a vote on the working week agenda even after all procedural matters were resolved, on the grounds that it might lead to legal complications with regard to home working – hearkening back to the Covid pandemic when such a case went all the way to the Supreme Court."In my opinion, in order to preserve the Riigikogu's reputation, the council of elders should be convened once again, and a joint answer needs to be found involving all six parties," Ratas said.

Opposition MPs also petitioned Ratas to call a recess in order to aid with clarity, but Ratas rejected this.

Tuesday's session duly ended on schedule at 1 p.m.

This article was amended to include comments from Toomas Kivimägi and then regarding Jüri Ratas taking over the speaker's chair.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

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