Extra Riigikogu session called for Friday, following Monday's filibuster

Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu.
Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Obstruction tactics employed by the three opposition parties at a Riigikogu session Monday have resulted in an additional session being called for Friday.

The three opposition parties, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the Center Party and Isamaa, used a filibuster earlier this week, conducted within the confines of the regulations, to halt legislation hiking taxation and cutting family benefits.

The Riigikogu's Great Hall, the main debating chamber, does not usually convene on Fridays, a day set aside for Foreign Affairs Committee and EU Affaris Committee work, in the normal run of things.

However, the late night session on Monday which saw the coalition unable to hold the first reading on tax hike and family benefits cuts legislation, also failed to approve the week's working agenda.

This agenda is usually set on a Monday, for the rest of the week, but the opposition filibuster prevented this from happening.

Now, Riigikogu Speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) has called the additional session for Friday, May 12, in conjunction with a decision made by the Riigikogu's board.

Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) was supposed to appear before the Riigikogu – government ministers do not sit at the chamber – for questions on the family benefits issue, but this did not in the end materialize, again due to the agenda not being approved.

The additional session on Friday will hold the first reading (of three) of the bills amending the Family Benefits Act, the Family Law Act and the Employment Contracts Act, initiated by the government – in other words the legislation that did not get its first reading Monday.

Today, Wednesday, the Riigikogu session convenes at 2 p.m. and lasts until the end of the agenda is reached, though by the rules this can run no later than the start of Thursday's session, at 10 a.m. the next day – in other words an overnight session could in theory run through to the next day.

Monday's marathon sitting was presided over by Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi (Reform), who then had to return to work at 10 a.m. on the Tuesday after a midnight finish.

However, from midday the other deputy speaker, Jüri Ratas (Center), took over. Ratas was keen to press on with that session and declined an opposition request for a recess, and opted not to hold a vote on the working week agenda.

Friday's session will meet one hour after the conclusion of the EU Affairs Committee's meeting, or 3 p.m., whichever comes first. This session, again, can in theory see a burning of the midnight oil in that it is to last until the agenda is exhausted, but no later than 9 p.m. on the Saturday, May 13.

The opposition had claimed the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition's raft of legislative amends amounted to a "cluster law", which prevented adequate debate on the matters. Reform's Riigikogu Chief Whip Erkki Keldo claimed the obstruction tactics would have set a dangerous precedent if the succeeded, while his predecessor as chief whip, current Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev, said that the opposition was attempting to neutralize the legislature, adding the government had a mandate to implement its policies.

Center MP and former health minister Tanel Kiik said Tuesday that ultimately, the opposition's goal was for the government "to come to its senses and stop the plan to cut family allowances, and review the tax package that taxes low-wage and middle-wage earners and leaves more money for people earning more than the average wage."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja, Merili Nael, Anne Raiste

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