Opposition parties waiting for concessions to stop Riigikogu obstruction

Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu.
Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Opposition parties are still awaiting concessions from the government before they withdraw hundreds of amendments that block the government's work. EKRE is planning new obstruction tactics for the next Riigikogu session, while Isamaa suggested party leaders should solve the problem.

This week should bring clarity in terms of what the Riigikogu plans to do about draft legislation and interpellations proposed by opposition MPs during efforts at obstruction. Opposition parties discussed the situation on Monday.

Isamaa's Rigiikogu faction Chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said the party is ready for constructive cooperation so the Rigiikogu can continue its work.

He blamed the situation on the coalition parties not debating the issues in the spring, saying the opposition's compromises were ignored.

"The Isamaa faction is ready for a discussion. But to discuss policy, not procedure. If we can open a parliamentary debate on political issues, open a substantive debate, if the opposition's proposals are at least listened to, if there are sensible proposals, then why not seek a compromise," said Seeder.

Then it would be possible to discuss which amendments could be withdrawn, he said. "It still depends on the content of these same drafts and inquiries, not on the form and number," he added.

Seeder thinks an agreement between party leaders will resolve the issue, as the influence of Riigikogu members is modest.

"Inevitably the government, the leaders of the coalition parties, will have to be involved," said Seeder. 

Helir-Valdor Seeder. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

EKRE new plans to obstruct the riigikogu's work if necessary

EKRE Vice-Chairman Mart Helme told ERR the party will continue its obstruction tactics if the government does not reverse tax and same-sex marriage legislation.

EKRE has also sent a proposal to this effect to the Riigikogu's Council of Elders.

The party does not want to see future legislation, on issues such as hate speech, car tax, and climate, tied to votes of no-confidence in the next session, as the government did in the spring.

"We still expect the coalition to show that it is prepared to meet public expectations and not to run over everyone with a tank," said Helme. "This must stop."

The vice-chairman said the party is willing to debate the issues and that members are not "religious fanatics who want to sit up all night and ask procedural questions". EKRE also wants the Riigikogu's work to continue as normal, Helme said.

"But it cannot be the case that the government pushes its way through with votes of confidence, literally by force, and then puts on a smile and says that now we are ready to compromise," he said. "Until there is a willingness on the part of the coalition to make real compromises, we are also not ready to compromise."

Mart Helme Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Responding to Seeder's idea that party leaders find an agreement amongst themselves, Helme said a similar meeting took place in May. He said Kallas had acted arrogantly: "Kaja Kallas just said that we broke the tax package into three parts and what more do you want?"

"With such an attitude, there is no point in meeting party leaders. What is needed is a change of attitude. We still need to take reality into account," he added, saying the government must take the worsening economic situation and people's dissatisfaction with tax increases into account.

"But at the moment, we understand quite clearly that compromises are expected only from the opposition side and, of course, from EKRE in particular. And if EKRE is not willing to make concessions - read: compromises - then EKRE is evil and an obstacle to normal life and government. But this is really not the case," he said.

Helme said EKRE plans to continue obstructioning in the autumn. "We're not going to shout about it now, exactly how and what we're going to do, but there is a plan," he said.

Asked if the opposition parties' support can be counted on, Helme said the situation with Center is difficult as the party is focusing on internal problems and preparing to elect a new chairman.

"I think that, to some extent, with the Center Party, how credible they are as an opposition partner will become clear after their congress," he said.

Helme hinted that Isamaa may make concessions with the coalition.

Kiik: Finding a compromise does not sound sincere

Tanel Kiik Source: Siim Lõvi

Chairman of the Center Party's Riigikogu faction Tanel Kiik told the board of the Riigikogu and the chairmen of the factions that the party submitted compromise proposals in the spring, but the coalition did not accept them.

"Therefore, the current "search for a compromise", unfortunately, no longer seems sincere," Kiik wrote.

He said the party is ready to discuss the withdrawal of similar and repeated amendments, but this requires the coalition to be open to the opposition's proposals during the Riigikogu's autumn session.

"A concrete opportunity for this will arise during the preparation of the 2024 state budget, as well as during the processing of other more important draft laws. If, actually, the coalition is not prepared to take into account the opposition's proposals and positions, it is not reasonable to expect unilateral concessions from the opposition parties," Kiik wrote.

During the spring session, the opposition parties submitted hundreds of amendments to bills raising taxes, cutting child benefits, and legalizing same sex-marriage to stop the Rigiikogu from passing the legislation. The coalition passed the legislation by tying them to votes of confidence, which it won.

The opposition parties argue the coalition did not properly debate the changes or listen to their objections. The government said it was working on a short time-frame.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

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