Isamaa MP: Filibuster can end if coalition ditches family benefits cuts

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Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Isamaa MP Urmas Reinsalu says that should the coalition pledge not to cut family benefits from their current level, all three opposition parties will abandon the filibuster they have been pursuing since Monday.

The three parties, Reinsalu's plus the Center Party and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), derailed normal parliamentary procedure from Monday, meaning that not only was the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition unable to get its legislative amendments processed under their first (of three) readings this week, but even the working schedule failed to get approved.

This has been followed by late-night sessions, including one on Friday, a day usually reserved solely for committee work, and another off-schedule session on Saturday.

Posting on his social media account Saturday, Reinsalu said: "Following consultation, the opposition has suggested that it can abandon this method of obstruction now and beyond in relation to other issues, provided family benefits are not reduced. All the opposition parties were behind this proposal."

"Right now, the ball is in the coalition's court – the cost of permanently calling a halt to this filibuster will be ending the family benefits cut," he went on.

Should this happen, Reinsalu, a former foreign minister, claimed, the filibuster would end and the Riigikogu could return to normal working practices as early as Monday.

The three coalition parties will not discuss the proposal until Monday itself, however, Reinsalu added.

The Riigikogu began an additional session at 3 p.m. Friday, which at the time of writing has been running for nearly 20 consecutive hours, again as a result of the filibuster which started Monday.

Reinsalu's proposal echoed one made by the Center Party earlier in the week, while EKRE's leader Martin Helme has claimed the obstruction could last until next spring if need be, by which time off-schedule elections would have to be called.

The legislation at the center of the deadlock also aims to hike income tax and VAT by two percentage points.

The coalition has already separated the previously bundled-together amendments into four separate parts in an effort to break the stalemate.

The current family benefits regime only entered into force in January, and had been primarily an Isamaa policy.

Erkki Keldo: The coalition has done its part, taken several steps

While the coalition has taken several steps to restore work in the Riigikogu, and now it's the opposition's turn, Erkki Keldo said later on Saturday.

"For our part, the coalition has taken several measures, and we have also publicly confirmed that we will fulfill all the obligations arising under the law and the Riigikogu best practices, in the processing of bills.

"To use a sports metaphor, the ball is in the opposition's court, in order to play it back and restore normal work in the Riigikogu," he added.

Keldo rejected the opposition's original complaint – which was behind the filibuster – that the coalition was unwilling to debated the legislative amendments, adding that in any case the government had taken steps to placate the opposition, including by the separating of the tax legislation into four bills.

Editor's note: This piece was updated to include comment from Erkki Keldo.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots, Marko Tooming

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