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Center Party leader: Riigikogu deadlock suits both sides conducting it

Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).
Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The current stalemate at the Riigikogu suits both sides – the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), as its filibuster could in theory lead to off-schedule elections, and the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition, since those bills which do get passed do so without substantive debate, Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) says.

The net result is there is no reason to expect the deadlock to lift any time soon, the mayor told ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio."

The mayor, who became Center leader in September, said: "To my mind it is necessary to admit that the current situation [at the Riigikogu] is amenable to all, or at least to some political parties.

"EKRE can filibuster and demand extraordinary elections, despite the fact that these elections will certainly not materialize. And the Reform Party and the other two coalition parties can get all their bills passed via a vote of confidence, since there is obstruction at the Riigikogu."

This would only leave Center and Isamaa out in the cold.

The coalition has been tying bills to motions of confidence in itself, which allows the bills to pass without substantive debate on their content (since MPs are voting on the motion of confidence, instead).

Despite President Alar Karis' expressed dismay at this happening, it has been ongoing since the Riigikogu reconvened in September, even as EKRE's ongoing filibuster, which began before summer (when it was joined by Center and Isamaa) has attracted much of the criticism until more recently.

The practice is nonetheless within the rules; the high stakes (if a motion of no confidence passed, the government would have to resign) are got round by the fact that with 60 seats out of 101, the coalition has a comfortable majority, and the two junior coalition parties, Eesti 200 and SDE, would rather remain in office than not.

"Thus there is no substantive discussion; it is not realistic to actually discuss anything, and of course it is also not possible to achieve anything either," Kõlvart went on, adding that this certainly does not suit his party.

According to Kõvart, the stand-off is likely to be long-lasting and for as long as it benefits both sides.

"This approach suits the coalition parties. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be the case that one opposition party gives the government, and the coalition parties the opportunity to tie all bills to a vote of confidence," he went on, referring to EKRE.

The people of Estonia did not choose such a strategy, Kõlvart noted.

Of more substantive policies, Kõlvart said that Estonia should not enact its own hate speech law simply at the EU's behest.

"I don't think it is necessary in this form," Kõlvart, who has himself arguably been the target of hate speech from the past EKRE leadership, said.

"It would sow even more confusion in society. It appears to me that the sole motivation for doing this is to meet EU norms so as not to be liable for a fine. This cannot be the overriding motivation for amending domestic Estonian legislation [however," he went on.

"In fact, this law does not regulate anything. It states that the judiciary will decide, precedents are going to be set. But the purpose of the law is to create legal clarity, but which it does not in actual fact bring, not to mention the fact that if it can be interpreted so broadly that there is also an inherent danger to democracy – if the definition of hate speech can be interpreted in a different way every time. Perhaps even if for some reason, you don't like what those who oppose you are saying," he added.

Tying this back the current Riigikogu deadlock, Kõlvart said that opposition and coalition parties have negotiate with each other, regardless of what their feelings towards one another might be. "Even if all the proposals seem to be unrealistic and let's say populist, negotiation is still needed, because every politician's proposal can be said to be populist on some level."

Kõlvart also said that the much-panned car tax, sponsored by the Reform Party, has not been subject to serious analysis and so could be ditched, given it has not passed at the Riigikogu yet.

Another Reform policy, the abolition of bracket creep, known in Estonian as the "tax hump," would in fact find sufficient funds, at least €500 million, to match the proposed car tax take, he claimed.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Esimene stuudio,' host Mirko Ojakivi.

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