Deputy Riigikogu speaker: Opposition only have themselves to blame

Toomas Kivimägi (Reform).
Toomas Kivimägi (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The manner in which the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition broke the deadlock of the week-long filibuster at the Riigikogu Monday, in so doing getting the legislation at the heart of the dispute past its first reading, was done so wholly legally, Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi (Reform) says.

The opposition only have themselves to blame in abusing the right to obstruct legislation where necessary, and in not seeking out compromise and agreement, Kivimägi added.

The obstruction tactics began last Monday and ran over several late night and off-schedule Riigikogu sessions, some of which Kivimägi presided over.

While the coalition ostensibly broke the deadlock Monday, by managing to get the legislation at the heart of the matter, concerning cutting family benefits, past its first reading (of three), the opposition continued delay tactics including via verbal barrackings and hammering on the desk.

The coalition Reform Party had also suggested ending the obstruction via coercive means if necessary.

Deputy Speaker Kivimägi said these actions had been completely legal and would also hold up in the Supreme Court if the matter were to reach that stage.

Speaking to ETV politics head-to-head show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday, Kivimägi said: "They (the opposition-ed.) see that this is a problem, we took their cudgel away from them. If they are sure that this [decision of the board of the Riigikogu] does not hold water, why should they worry - they can go to the Supreme Court, where they can get justice. I am one hundred percent convinced that this decision is watertight. /.../ There is room for debate, but I am a hundred percent convinced that such an authorization norm is provided for in the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act."

"If we undertake an annotated edition of the Constitution, which will probably be presented on Wednesday - a new annotated edition - it is very clearly stated there that the right of questioning must not lead to the possibility of burdening the Riigikogu via that questioning in such a way that it is unable to perform other tasks arising from the Constitution, " Kivimägi went on.

The coalition has no interest in taking drastic measures, but the opposition had left it no option, he went on, than to restrict some of the opposition's rights.

"If you abuse a right, and no one doubts that the opposition has the right to submit drafts and inquiries, procedural questions, but that right has been abused. So now the consequence has arisen. We were forced to do so, so that the Riigikogu could function," he went on.

There is no way to accept the other side's claim that their rights are confined, he added, as they have been permitted to hand over more than 500 queries, compared with 470 rounds during the entire previous Riigikogu composition.

The opposition's statement that the coalition had refused to discuss the draft bill was also not the case, Kivimägi continued.

"Yesterday the first reading of family allowances was concluded. Those who left the hall were the opposition, who bluntly said before that they had wanted to hold a debate, but when that opportunity to hold a debate arrived, they then decided to leave. There has been a lot of verbal abuse, making it very difficult to reach an agreement and a compromise," Kivimägi continued.

The opposition has been made to understand that agreements on the content of the bills will only be concluded in the Riigikogu's main chamber, and not behind closed doors, he added.

He also said he concurred with his party's leader, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who said Tuesday that the opposition's behavior could be likened to that of the Russian regime in the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine, calling this comparison "appropriate", not least because Russia benefits from one party (ie. the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)) bringing parliamentary work to a halt, over and above the other five parties.

"I don't want to say that this is the intention of some opposition party, but it is obviously a problem and a threat to the security and functioning of the Estonian state," Kivimägi went on.

Center and Isamaa, the other two opposition parties, have also opposed the coalition's approach to its attempts to pass the family benefits legislative amendments and have been involved in the filibuster.

On Tuesday, EKRE leader Martin Helme was filmed by a Riigikogu MP rapping on his desk by way of creating an obstruction, while the party's founder, Mart Helme, was seen verbally barracking the chamber (see tweets below).

The Center Party's press department announced that the three coalition party leaders at the Riigikogu, Martin Helme, Tanel Kiik (Center) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), are holding a press conference at the Riigikogu at 11.30 a.m. Wednesday, where they will provide an overview to the media of their next steps in curbing what they call restrictions in the opposition's activities as enacted by the coalition.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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