Reform Party preparing to end opposition's filibustering by force
Reform Party chief whip Erkki Keldo said that the ruling party wants to end the current situation where the Riigikogu opposition can keep obstructing the work of the parliament indefinitely by using interpellations and entering new bills into proceedings. Coalition SDE leader Lauri Läänemets said that the details need to be agreed before use of force.
"We just wrapped up our Riigikogu group meeting. It was our perception that the Riigikogu must be able to fulfill its constitutional right and duty," Keldo said. "The single right of MPs to ask questions cannot override every other right and obligation of the parliament."
Keldo said that the Riigikogu's work ability needs to be restored, and there are ways of doing it.
"They are up to the chair of the sitting. They (Riigikogu sittings are chaired by the speaker of deputy speakers – ed.) are in charge of how to curate sittings. But it is there in black and white that the chair of the sitting must ensure the work of the parliament and the proper order. Pursuant to this, the chairman has levers," Keldo said.
"We need to restore the constitutional right to make decisions and pass laws. It is our common obligation and right. And it needs to be ensured," Keldo said. "Personally, I believe that every day, every hour the Riigikogu is not doing its mandated job amounts to wasting taxpayer money."
Keldo added that he cannot say how and when the Riigikogu president should end the opposition's filibustering, adding that it is beyond his remit as Reform whip.
"We are discussing how to process bills, who has to give speeches or write opinion articles. The task of the Riigikogu group is to execute policy, explain to people why something was decided. It is the work and task of the Riigikogu speaker and deputy speakers to ensure sensible proceedings and work of the parliament," Keldo said.
Legal assessment leaves the door open
Lauri Läänemets, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said that the Riigikogu legal department has concluded that the chair of the sitting can indeed end obstruction tactics. But Läänemets added there are still a number of loose ends when it comes to ending Riigikogu filibustering.
"To try and regulate interpellations and new bills being introduced by force so to speak, it can be done, while the question is how to go about it and how many bills can be put forward etc. Whether every MP can introduce a bill etc. Those kinds of questions are still up in the air," Läänemets remarked.
The coalition council, made up of the leaders of ruling parties, will convene to discuss the matter at 1 p.m.
Läänemets also said that things that would drastically alter the Riigikogu's work culture should be avoided when looking for a way out of the gridlock as such things might create new problems down the line.
Office of the Riigikogu refuses to disclose legal analysis
Urmas Seaver, head of the Office of the Riigikogu's PR department, said that the legal department's analysis of ways to end obstruction will not be disclosed.
"The task of the Office of the Riigikogu is to advise the parliament, its organs, including the board and MPs in the performance of their tasks. Relevant materials are not registered and they are meant for in-house use," Seaver said.
However, ERR has the legal department's memo at its disposal, according to which the chair of the sitting has the right to put an end to procedural questions asked for the purposes of obstruction.
The analysis also finds that the Board of the Riigikogu can set a time limit for interpellations and introducing bills, for example, one hour or two.
If the Board of the Riigikogu cannot find consensus, the matter can be put up for an extraordinary vote on the floor where the coalition has the majority.
While such a decision could be challenged in the Supreme Court, even a successful challenge would not render decisions made during that particular sitting null and void, the memo reads.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski