Despite the coalition's quashing of filibustering in the Riigikogu on Monday, the opposition parties plan to stay their course. If the coalition fails to appropriate enough time for procedural questions and introducing new bills, the opposition will simply start filing clusters of draft legislation, which will be just as effective at bogging down the Estonian parliament.
Chair of the Riigikogu sitting on Tuesday, Toomas Kivimägi (Reform), said that the plan is to give the opposition a limited time window for procedural questions, new bills and interpellations.
The opposition got right down to business. However, Center MP Andrei Korobeinik soon took a stack of papers to the Riigikogu rostrum and handed them to Kivimägi, saying that because time is short, he is forced to present several bills simultaneously. Kivimägi described the situation as unprecedented.
Center whip Tanel Kiik said that handing in several bills at once is by no means exceptional. "In truth, it has not been regulated. It is quite common for the government's representative to hand in several bills at once. Committee representatives also do it every now and again," Kiik said.
"Members of the Riigikogu use those two minutes to elaborate on the interpellation or bill. But in a situation where their presentation has a time limit, an MP could hand in 10, 20 or even more interpellations or bills at once," Kiik remarked.
That seems to be the opposition's plan for continuing to obstruct the coalition's activities. The coalition will have to process every single bill and interpellation. They must merit a reaction and attention. Both from the government and the parliament.
After flooding the floor with bills and questions, the opposition hopes to bring the coalition back to the negotiating table. Tanel Kiik suggested that the coalition dropping its plan of slashing child benefits would help end obstructive activities.
"We are willing to sit down and pick up where the negotiations fell off. Unfortunately, the Riigikogu Board of Elders has not met after Friday."
Martin Helme, head of the largest opposition force, the Conservative People's Party (EKRE), said that his party was also willing to take back its bills and interpellations in exchange for the coalition dropping the cuts last Friday.
"Perhaps not all of them, but some at least. It would be part of a potential compromise. However, we have seen absolutely no willingness to compromise form the coalition," Helme said. "Whatever comes next will be more fighting. The proposal was rejected and the agreement is valid no longer," he said.
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder suggested that if an agreement is not reached, ministers will soon be spending their days in the Riigikogu. "If no compromise is reached, ministers will have to answer all of these interpellations in the parliament, process all of these legislative initiatives, which will take a fair bit of time," he said.
Riigikogu Vice President Toomas Kivimägi said that the coalition cannot yet say what will be its next steps should the other side continue recent practice. "It is clear that the time that needs to be allocated for analyzing interpellations or bills pursuant to the Constitution cannot be found in the conditions of such sheer numbers."
"There are non-standard solutions here too, and we'll need to analyze the combined effects. I will be honest in admitting we do not have a concrete plan at this time. Kivimägi added that bills can be introduced for the next seven weeks.
Statement by coalition whips
Reform Party whip Erkki Keldo, Eesti 200's Marek Reinaas and Jevgeni Ossinovski for SDE made a joint statement on Tuesday urging heads of the opposition to abandon efforts to obstruct the parliament's work and get down to business.
"Even though the opposition parties have previously promised to enable the reading of bills for which there is political consensus, they returned to filibustering today (Tuesday morning – ed.), asking questions about the point of order and entering dozens of bills and interpellations into proceedings."
Keldo, Reinaas and Ossinovski said they believe the Riigikogu must be able to perform its constitutional tasks, the primary of which is to pass laws and make decisions.
"The floor of the Riigikogu is of the same mind. We are still prepared to have a full debate for all bills [put forward by the coalition] both on the floor and in committees. We hope the opposition's further steps will not make it impossible," the heads of Riigikogu groups said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski