Opposition politicians appeal to Estonian president to help solve Riigikogu deadlock

Former Riigikogu Speaker Jüri Ratas with current Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi (Reform).
Former Riigikogu Speaker Jüri Ratas with current Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi (Reform). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Opposition politicians have appealed to President Alar Karis to help resolve what it calls a steamrolling of the Riigikogu by the coalition's tying of bills to a vote of confidence in the government itself.

The Riigikogu's work has largely ground to a halt this fall due to an ongoing filibuster and, while tying a vote of confidence to a bill – essentially a make or break move as MPs are then voting on the continuation of the government itself, rather than the substance of the bill in question – is one means of breaking the deadlock given that the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition has 60 seats at the 101-seat chamber, President Karis has counseled against the overuse of this tactic already this year.

The bills in question pertain to the 2024 state budget, which in turn is being held up by the filibuster being conducted by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Two of the opposition parties, Isamaa and Center, have addressed a letter to the head of state, appealing to him to resolve the current impasse; Isamaa has already initiated a no-confidence motion in the government, which requires 21 MPs signatures to be heard, but again which could only pass if some coalition MPs were to vote against their own government.

Jüri Ratas (Center) told AK that a governmental fall rather depends only on coalition MPS voting on confidence votes tied to bills.

Ratas told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday that: "The political reality in terms of voting is such that Kaja Kallas is facing a vote of confidence [tied to bills] seven times this week, by the coalition, including Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats (SDE)."

"The opposition has an obligation to express its position, while we certainly cannot see Kaja Kallas successfully leading the Estonian government today. /.../ What is thus important is the type of position formed by the president of the republic, who has actually stated that this is not the way to run the country – ie. to come here with a large package of bills, tied to a vote of confidence."

Isamaa Riigikogu chief whip Helir-Valdor Seeder meanwhile noted that:"A whole series of interpellations were withdrawn from today's agenda in order to lighten the load, and to signal to the governing coalition parties that we will not implement a filibuster if they exhibit the slightest desire to hold a legislature debate and search for common ground. /.../ The political stand-off that has emerged now can only be resolved via political negotiations, not by rolling over opposition parties and/or politicians using a steamroller approach."

The coalition's amendments to these bills have been taken on board; those from the opposition have not.

SDE whip Jevgeni Ossinovski said not all the procedures relating to all the bills had yet been completed, adding that individual changes have been made to several bills.

"For instance, we are introducing certain amendments to the bill on the State Fees Act" adding that he is executing these amendments, proposed by the Riigikogu's environmental committee.

In summer, President Alar Karis counseled Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) against the potential abuse of a vote of confidence, at a time when he promulgated eight coalition laws recently adopted by the Riigikogu, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, numerous tax increases and the reduction of family allowances.

In August, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said passing of bills through votes of confidence should not be used regularly for "convenience" and that it is only constitutional if there is no other option.

All three opposition parties engaged in a filibuster in the weeks leading up to the Riigikogu's summer recess, but since the Riigikogu returned to work in September, this has been conducted by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) alone, with Isamaa and Center adopting other more conciliatory tactics.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Veronika Uibo.

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