Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) MP Kalle Grünthal, who finds himself in hot water with the authorities over suspected misuse of his official Riigikogu refueling card, said that he has filed to leave the party. Grünthal had not filed to also quit the parliament by Wednesday afternoon.
A day before he left the party, Grünthal was asked by an Äripäev journalist about €26,000 he had been paid by the Office of the Riigikogu in residence allowance over three years. The newspaper had visited an apartment Grünthal declared he rented in Tallinn, while its owner had no knowledge of Grünthal and confirmed he did not live there.
Grünthal took to social media to write that EKRE under chairman Martin Helme is the only political party that really represents the people's interests, and that it has apparently become necessary to remove EKRE politicians from the political arena as they have become a thorn in the government's side.
"Based on the aforementioned, I believe I cannot continue as a member of EKRE because aspects of my person work to damage the party's reputation. I hereby announce that I have filed to quit the Conservative People's Party."
Grünthal said he has been under heavy media scrutiny since last week over his Riigikogu expenses benefits and the use of an official fuel card. Grünthal said the attack on him constitutes a tactical information operation that serves at least two purposes.
"To divert attention from Kaja Kallas' Russia business as well as draft budget deliberations in the Riigikogu as the latter is contrary to the interests of Estonia and its people and easier to pass if the public is distracted. It is also significant that scandals only seem to lead to criminal proceedings in the case of EKRE MPs."
EKRE chairman Martin Helme told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news that Grünthal's decision to leave the party took him by surprise. Helme added that while the decision of whether to continue as a member of the Riigikogu is up to the MP, he believes Grünthal should leave the parliament.
Kalle Grünthal made the Riigikogu as the alternate member of Jaak Madison following the latter's decision to continue in the European Parliament. Pärnu Postimees reported that Madison has been critical of Grünthal's conduct. "A person who schemes to save €100 while receiving a salary of €4,000 is a creep," the publication quotes Madison as having said during a meeting with fellow EKRE members.
According to the business register, Kalle Grünthal has been an EKRE member since March 14, 2017. He was a member of Res Publica 2002-2005.
Editor: Urmat Kook, Marcus Turovski