President Karis worried about government's excessive use of confidence vote

Kaja Kallas and Alar Karis.
Kaja Kallas and Alar Karis.

President Alar Karis has signed eight coalition laws recently adopted by the Riigikogu, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, numerous tax increases and the reduction of family allowances. At the same time, he advised Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) against abusing confidence vote.

"I signed eight laws passed by the Riigikogu right before the National Defense Council. With the passage of these laws, important decisions have been taken. They concern marriage equality, national security and taxes," Karis said following the council meeting at a press conference alongside Kaja Kalas.

"These difficult decisions must be made by parliament, and it must hold itself accountable for them. Citizens are the ones who hold politicians accountable. As president, it is my duty to protect the Constitution, and parliamentary democracy is its cornerstone. Parliament must be the place where all national decisions are made," he said.

Karis said that he hesitated to tie that many measures to a vote of confidence in the government.

"The Constitution allows for this but the question is when we go too far," he said.

Karis went on to say that if the government were to make all proposed laws subject to a vote of confidence, it would be manifestly unconstitutional and result in the end of parliamentary democracy.

He also highlighted a recent Supreme Court decision that warned against misusing both a vote of confidence and a filibuster. "The Supreme Court said that the permissible limits of filibustering are vague, and that it is precisely because of this ambiguity that our lives have been so chaotic in recent months. This amount of legal ambiguity that we have just encountered must remain a rare event," the president said.

"I will not tolerate the repeated linkage of drafts to a vote of confidence"

Karis said the limits of the permitted obstruction must be more accurately defined by the parliament itself, or else other branches of government will intervene too much in the work of the parliament.

"If the government continues to take the opportunity to tie bills to a confidence issue, that is not a solution. I will not stand for it, especially now that there is a chance to use the Supreme Court's ruling as a reference and define MPs' rights in light of it," Karis added.

"I agree that the opposition can temporarily obstruct the Riigikogu's functioning, but not indefinitely. The legislative minority must be able to obstruct and control the majority's actions. This may be frustrating, but it is a requirement of parliamentary democracy, and the government must accept it. Adoption of a bill cannot be tied to a confidence vote just because the government believes the bill is urgent," Karis said.

Kallas: Confidence vote is our only tool against filibustering

Kallas reacted to Karis by saying that all of these legislation were passed in accordance with the constitution and that the drafts were only subject to a vote of confidence when they were obstructed.

"We don't tie anything to the confidence vote unless it was not previously obstructed. The confidence vote is our only weapon against filibustering.," Kallas explained.

She went on to say that EKRE filibustered 38 proposed bills during her time as prime minister. "If we allow this obstruction to continue unchecked and we cannot use confidence votes, there is no point in holding elections, because we cannot implement our program," Kallas said.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

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