EKRE carries out 19-hour overnight Riigikogu filibuster

Extraordinary plenary session of the Riigikogu.
Extraordinary plenary session of the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A filibuster orchestrated by the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) led to a 19-hour overnight Riigikogu sitting from Wednesday through to Thursday morning. The filibuster primarily focused amendments to details in the state budget and saw EKRE MPs present amendment after amendment, each of which required a vote.

The session began at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and ran through to just after 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, during which time the Riiigkogu was able to adopt one piece of legislation, finished the first reading (of three) of eight bills, but the review of amendments to the state budget bill was left incomplete.

This bill, properly termed the 2023 State Budget Law Amendment Bill (303 SE) and initiated by the government, amends the distribution of expenditures by program activities, the so-called activity-based approach to the state budget, and the distribution of funds between expenditures and investments.

Most of EKRE's MPs spoke before the chamber during the bill's debating, namely: Party leader Martin Helme, former leader Mart Helme, plus Arvo Aller, Helle-Moonika Helme, Rene Kokk, Leo Kunnas, Anti Poolamets, Evelin Poolamets, Varro Vooglaid, Henn Põlluaas and Siim Pohlak.

Additionally, former EKRE MP Kalle Grünthal spoke on the bill.

The EKRE MPs asked for a full plenary vote on all amendments in turn, with a 10-minute break taking place between each vote.

All amendments submitted by EKRE itself were voted down, while most of them did not even get a majority from within the party itself, receiving between one and four votes per amendment.

The review process to the amendments began at 2.15 a.m. on Thursday; a total of 88 amendments were put forward by MPs of all parties, along with one presented by the Riigikogu's finance committee.

41 of these amendments had been reviewed by the time the session ended, leaving 48 left still to be processed. No opposition amendments passed.

A law emending the Social Tax Act and the Income Tax Act had earlier on passed with a 56-vote majority.

This was followed by the beginning of EKRE's filibuster, with one of the party's MPs speaking before each of eight bills presented and proposing those bills' rejection – in each case this proposal failed.

The marathon session ended at 9.32 a.m. after the speaker called for a recess, and was set to restart later that morning.

A long-running filibuster before the Riigikogu broke up for its summer recess had involved all three opposition parties, EKRE, Isamaa and the Center Party, but most of the obstruction following parliament's return in September has been carried out by EKRE alone.

The 2024 state budget bill passed its first reading last month, but requires two more readings before it can enter into law, with the substantive amendments taking place between the first and second of these readings.

Usually the state budget passes in mid-December, just ahead of the Riigikogu's Christmas and New Year break, and under the Constitution it must pass by March of the year to which it pertains.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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