Coalition party Eesti 200 has strongly criticized a media report which claimed the appointment by the party to the chair of the Riigikogu's Environmental Affairs Committee has been influenced by the party's main donor.
Züleyxa Izmailova, who became an Eesti 200 MP after the departure of Johanna Maria-Lehtme last month, was earmarked as Riigikogu Environment Committee Chair, replacing party-mate Tarmo Tamm.
Concerns over a potential conflict of interest, given Tamm's main business is in timber, plus two misdemeanor proceedings against him in relation to same, raised doubts over his suitability as chair – he also sits on the board of the state environment procurement agency, the KIK.
Now, Eesti 200 appears to have hesitated on Izmailova as environment committee chief, though denies that this is the result of pressure from businessman Priit Alamäe, the party's major donor in recent years.
Eesti 200's Riigikogu whip Marek Reinaas said that discussions on the next environment committee chair are still ongoing, adding that noone from the party had communicated with Alamäe on the topic.
"You should ask Priit Alamäe about that," he added.
On that note, Alamäe himself denies any attempts to influence proceedings.
Alamäe said: "I have not tried to pressure or influence any member of the Eesti 200 party group in any way on this topic. This is a malicious slander initiated by somebody, and I would ask you not to propagate it."
Questions sent to Izmailova were answered by Eesti 200' spokesperson Rauno Veri, who stated that the rumors were baseless and must be refuted.
No opposition from Alamäe was behind the withdrawal of Eesti 200's putting forward Izmailova for the environmental committee role, while Alamäe has not communicated with the party on this matter, he said, regardless of what communication party members might have had with the media.
Veri added that acquiring information via third parties and publishing it as seeming fact when it was actually unconfirmed information from sources not fully in the picture had also been an issue.
Eesti 200 makes decisions within a framework set up by the party's leadership, Veri said, and those party members who do not have a role within that framework consequently have no real say either.
Discussions on who is the best candidate for committee chair are ongoing, Veri went on, noting that the party wants to make decisions on environmental matters in a highly considered way.
At the same time, no alternative reason for dropping support for Izmailova, a former Green Party leader, as committee chair were put forward by the spokesperson.
Tarmo Tamm has said that he is willing to step down from the role if needed. In addition to the two misdemeanor proceedings, an administrative procedure by yet another environmental body, the state Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet) may be lodged against him in respect of a "floating sauna" he allegedly put in place within the Lahemaa national park.
While Marek Reinaas had initially backed Izmailova as Tamm's replacement, he later backtracked on this.
Business daily Äripäev had reported that Priit Alamäe, owner of IT company Nortal, as Eesti 200's most significant donor, could have been behind the change of heart on Izmailova/Tamm.
Alamäe reportedly contacted Äripäev editor-in-chief Igor Rõtov , hitting out at reporting he said had led to Tamm's putative resignation as environment committee chair, but also indicated that the Estonian economy would suffer if Izmailova were to replace him.
Eesti 200 won its first Riigikogu seats, 14 of them, at the March 5 election and was then propelled into office alongside Reform and the Social Democrats. Party leader Lauri Hussar, a former Postimees editor-in-chief, is Riigikogu speaker.
Editor: Karin Koppel, Andrew Whyte