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Overnight Riigikogu session sees little apparent attempt at compromise

A door inside the Riigikogu.
A door inside the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi/Priit Mürk/ERR

Another Riigikogu session burned the midnight oil this week with a solution to the deadlock still seemingly far off as the coalition continues producing bills tied to motions of no-confidence; the opposition, with its filibuster.

No back-to-back session could have happened Friday, since the Riigikogu does not work Fridays in any case, although, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported, Wednesday's overnight session ran all the way into Thursday afternoon.

As in spring, opposition MPs used every opportunity available to halt the adoption of bills, through the overnight session.

These tactics included the use of interpellations, the presentation of speeches, vote-taking and a 10 minute recess between each item.

By the time the AK team arrived at parliament it was 2 a.m. Eesti 200 MP Juku-Kalle Raid said that he had been able to get some sleep ahead of that time, giving him the opportunity to be at the Riigikogu for several hours overnight.

The opposition on two times proposed calling the session to an end; coalition MPs rejected thes proposals.

Siim Pohlak of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the party behind most of the filibuster, said that the proceedings had been "reasonable."

"here is also nothing out of the ordinary going on, that the Estonian people should be concerned about. On the contrary, one could could express contentment that there is still a force in the Riigikogu which very concretely stands up for its own election pledges and against tax hikes," Pohlak went on.

Reform Party chief whip Erkki Keldo said the search for a solution had been hard.

Keldo said: "We have no desire to bind bills to a vote of confidence; we are ready to discuss these, with proposals for amendments made at committee level."

While EKRE has been engaging in a filibuster, the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition MPs have been tying bills relating to the 2024 state budget, in an effort to get this legislation, and thus the budget itself, passed before year-end.

Tying a bill to a motion of confidence in the government means that MPs are only voting on this, and not the content of the bill, while amendments to and debate over that content is off the table.

At the same time, if the vote of confidence coalition MPs put in place goes against them, the government would have to resign – thus raising the stakes and making the process an all-or-nothing one.

Keldo added that: "If the view is that that the only purpose of the [opposition] amendments is to create an obstruction, to prevent parliament from functioning, then it is very difficult to find a compromise here too.

Of possible ways to break the deadlock, Pohlak said that compromise is needed, but would not elaborate on camera.

"It is important for us that all tax hikes should be reviewed," he added.

Tax hikes are among those items contained in the legislation being tied to motions of confidence.

In any case, over a 23-hour period, the Riigikogu was able to pass five bills lnked to motions of confidence – in other words the coalition, with 60 seats at the 101-seat chamber, survived five motions of confidence it had initiated in itself.

Outstanding bills are to be processed next week, AK reported. According to the Riigikogu's website, parliament does not convene next week, though there is scope in the regulations for calling extraordinary sessions.

All three opposition parties – EKRE, Isamaa and the Center Party – have appealed to President Alar Karis to resolve the impasse, something which may be difficult for him to do (for instance by declining to give his assent to those bills which have passed) without appearing to take sides.

Indeed on Thursday the prime minister accused the head of state of doing just that.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Johannes Voltri.

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