President Karis to ERR: Parliament must find its own solution to stalemate

President Alar Karis in the Riigikogu.
President Alar Karis in the Riigikogu. Source: Erik Peinar/Chancellery of the Riigikogu

In an interview with the ERR portal, President Alar Karis said the public debate must not be replaced by agreements that must be reached outside the Riigikogu for the legislature to function at all.

President Karis, does the fact that filibustering has halted the Riigikogu's work indicate a constitutional crisis?

Estonia's constitution is strong. It has withstood the test of time and will withstand the current legislative crisis.

Parliament must find a way to fulfill its role. Its main task is to implement laws; if it fails to do so, it is not doing its job.

On April 10, during the inaugural session of the new parliament, I spoke about this. When parliamentary action is suspended, the entire nation, not just a few political groups, suffers. I completely understand why people are perplexed about what is going on in parliament and why things are the way they are.

How do you envision your role in resolving the crisis?

As said before, it is up to the legislature to find a solution. I can remind you of the responsibilities of the Riigikogu. Obstructionism is occasionally justified as a last resort, but only if the entire country does not suffer. There is no point in conducting elections if parliament does not work.

You met with government officials in Kadriorg on Thursday evening. Have you brought up the situation in the Riigikogu, and if so, have any solutions been proposed?

Of course, we talked. What is my objective? Estonia must not remain still. Sound decisions can only be made through dialogue, attentiveness and weighing the pros and cons and the opposition performs a crucial function. However, the public debate must not be replaced by agreements that have to be reached outside the hall of the Riigikogu for it to function at all.

Alar Karis met members of the government in Kadriorg on Thursday. Source: Office of the President

Are you also planning to meet the leaders of the opposition parties?

Yes, we have met already and we will meet again. These discussions were crucial for me to understand the more or less obvious currents and reefs of our internal politics.

How much do views such as "ending the stalemate by force" (Jevgeni Ossinovski) and "the furniture is going to start flying in the halls of parliament" (Martin Helme) contribute to resolving the situation?

I believe that politicians should avoid using language that undermines the democratic order. How can pouring lighter fluid on a fire help in extinguishing it?

Do you believe that the parliamentary factions should reach a political agreement, or should the Riigikogu's speaker intervene with force?

I am not sure what you mean by force in this context. This situation requires legal resolution. I believe this is also stipulated in the norms of procedure of the Riigikogu.

The procedure rules have been implemented so that the parliament can operate in accordance with them to enact laws, which includes the participation of the opposition. Finding a solution is the responsibility of all political parties in the Riigikogu.

A year ago, you also discussed the possibility of extraordinary elections. How probable is it that the current impasse in the Riigikogu (the filibuster continues and the budget cannot be passed) will result in this?

I do not see this happening right now.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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