Estonia's ruling coalition needs to decide over the next few weeks when to start tying bills to a vote of confidence in the government again as sustained obstruction efforts, mainly by the Conservative People's Party (EKRE), are holding back the parliament's work.
Reform Party chief whip Erki Keldo said that obstruction tactics, mostly by EKRE, are still keeping the parliament from doing effective work. Keldo said that while the other opposition parties (Center and Isamaa) are also participating, they have dialed back to some extent.
"We spent Wednesday night last week voting on empty EKRE amendment proposals. Unfortunately, EKRE also filibustered foreign missions, rejecting relevant proposals while abstaining from voting," Keldo said.
EKRE chair Martin Helme said that the party will continue to obstruct the draft budget and other associated bills until it leads to extraordinary elections.
A recent Norstat poll showed that support for extraordinary elections has grown a little, Helme said, adding that 55 percent of people and EKRE now feel that extraordinary elections would be the way out of the political deadlock. "This means we will be systematically working to evoke them."
Tanel Kiik, who heads Center's group in the Riigikogu, said that his party still supports obstruction efforts but only regarding specific bills.
"We will be slowing down and opposing bills which we do not support and find cause serious problems for the Estonian economy, regional development and subsistence, while we will not be working against technical bills and things we believe will help make life better," the politician said.
But Kiik added that Center will definitely not support the draft budget and tax hikes. Erki Keldo said that the government will likely have little choice but to tie the passing of the budget to a vote of confidence (draft legislation tied to a vote of confidence is not subject to proposals to amend, while the parliament's refusal to enter such a bill into proceedings will automatically cause the government to resign – ed.).
"The situation today is that we will be voting on amendments to the 2023 budget until late this evening /.../ while I cannot really see any other way when it comes to the 2024 draft budget and associated acts as we would otherwise be voting on these things for six months or even longer. Because no compromise has been found, the only chance is to tied them to a vote of confidence," Keldo said.
But Martin Helme said he believes the government lacks courage to hold a vote of confidence at this time. First, because of what the president might think, and second, because not all members of the coalition are happy with everything relating to the budget, whereas failing to get enough votes might see the government collapse.
Keldo said that the decision will be made in the coming weeks, which would theoretically allow the coalition to pass the budget this year.
Editor: Marcus Turovski