Helme: Government could have used attrition instead of force

Martin Helme.
Martin Helme. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

EKRE leader Martin Helme finds that instead of illegally breaking the opposition's obstruction effort, the government could have used attrition tactics to eventually arrive at an agreement.

Martin Helme said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show that all parties have engaged in obstruction in the Riigikogu, while the government has now decided to break it illegally.

"What I also find problematic – I might understand the coalition's protest over the work stoppage if it had been going on for three months, half a year or from one week to the next. But we were at an impasse in the Riigikogu for a week, things were stalled and the government could not process its bills. It isn't even the longest obstruction in the history of the Riigikogu. Instinctively reaching for one's gun, steamrolling the opposition in such a situation has not been done before," he said.

Helme suggested that winning the elections does not give parties an absolute mandate to do what they want and how they want; there are clear procedural limits involved which the government has exceeded.

"These limits are twofold. There are legal aspects on the one hand, Riigikogu rules and procedures as well as the Constitution – my constitutional rights as an MP have been quite severely violated. But the frames are also political. They do not have a mandate for what they are doing, no mandate whatsoever for tax hikes, slashing family benefits, allowing gays to adopt, or censorship, which they refer to as hate speech. They lack a mandate for any of it. They are flagrantly misusing the mandate they were given at elections," Helme commented.

"And this needs to be obstructed. They took it one step further by saying that if they're obstructed in their deceitful and illegal activity, they will just turn off the taps, take away our right to speak and keep going. It is very serious where we're headed. We have the historical example of the Silent Era where the parliament was silenced and a few years later the state ceased to exist, was taken over by the Russians. No one should want to see a repeat of that in Estonia," the politician added.

Helme emphasized that obstruction is legal, and no Estonian party has ever engaged in illegal obstruction.

"The whole point of it is to force the government to change course or make a deal, give a little ground. It is an extreme measure and not one that is used often. I would say it was used once by the previous Riigikogu composition. We could say that when the Reform Party used obstruction to fight the family benefits hikes whilst a member of the coalition, the political result was the government's collapse. (the Reform-Center government before last – ed.). When Reform used obstruction to fight the [marriage] referendum in the opposition, that too resulted in the government falling apart. The valve is always political. But this time they went and broke the law. That is the fundamental difference and the most dangerous development imaginable," Helme remarked.

The EKRE head said that the Riigikogu Board of Elders (made up of the speaker, deputy speakers and committee chairmen – ed.) is a functional format for trying to overcome deadlock. He said that the body met several times last week to try and gauge where the sides could compromise, adding that while the opposition was proposing solutions, the coalition rejected them all.

Helme finds that the government should have used attrition tactics instead.

"What the government should have done, what I would have done and what we did in the government, is basic attrition. To hold out for a week, two weeks, a part of third and then – I've seen the faces of MPs after consecutive night sittings –they will eventually start putting pressure on their leaders to make a deal and wrap it up. And that is when you get political agreements. But instead of going through this ritual dance, they decided to use force. And we cannot allow that," he explained.

Helme said that the coalition must understand that the government must also give in from time to time.

Host Mirko Ojakivi asked the EKRE leader about his plans for the situation in the Riigikogu. "I will not be revealing my plan. But I do have one," he said.

"The real plan is stopping some truly horrid bills from becoming law, using everything we have at our disposal. Obstruction in the Riigikogu has been that tool until recently. But there will also be a protest meeting on May 27, which is the constitutional right of all citizens," he explained.

Helme did not say whether his plan could culminate in extraordinary elections but suggested some coalition partners could flake.

"The Reform Party could have the nerve for it, while others might give. Losing half your support rating in a week will cause someone to buckle somewhere," he said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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