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Uku Toom: One Riigikogu deputy speaker definitely to change

The current Riigikogu board consists of (from left), first Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi, Speaker Lauri Hussar, and second Deputy Speaker Jüri Ratas.
The current Riigikogu board consists of (from left), first Deputy Speaker Toomas Kivimägi, Speaker Lauri Hussar, and second Deputy Speaker Jüri Ratas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In a little over two months' time, the Riigikogu is set to elect a new board – comprising Riigikogu speaker, properly known as the president of the Riigikogu, and the speaker's two deputies.

ERR's Uku Toom notes that given the recent power shifts in the legislature, while there is a chance that Jüri Ratas (Center) will continue as deputy speaker, this is perhaps to assume a bit too much.

The Riigikogu's standard practice is that the parliamentary speaker comes from a coalition, but not the prime minister's, party, the first deputy speaker from the prime minister's party, and the second from the largest opposition party.

However, a year ago, this tradition was broken, and the largest opposition party, The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) was deprived of the position of deputy speakr due to the joint efforts of the Center Party, Isamaa, and Jüri Ratas, who had already in place before the elections, remained a member of the board (Ratas had previously been speaker; current speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) and first deputy speaker Toomas Kivimägi (Reform) follow the original practice outlined above – ed.).

The year (since the last change) is now drawing to a close, and Riigikogu board elections are again imminent.

It can be assumed that both Lauri Hussar and Toomas Kivimägi will remain in their place, although there have been criticisms of the first deputy.

The status of the second deputy speaker is up in the air, however There are several possible outcomes.

The first and most logical of these is that Martin Helme (EKRE) gets the place. With its 16+1 votes, EKRE should be able to guarantee this.

There is also a chance that Jüri Ratas will continue as second deputy speaker. But that requires a few too many assumptions.

First of all, Ratas would need to remain a member of the Center Party Riigikogu group, up to that point, while the other (six) members of the faction must support him. Second, he would need to get support from the Isamaa faction. And even then the votes would total 17.

So some of the Center Party voters who have left the Riigikogu faction (nine in all since last autumn – ed.) would also have to vote for Ratas, which is not really an issue since the coalition has an abundance of votes.

The reality, however, is that by the end of March, Ratas will likely have left the Center Party faction, while there is probably no point in talking about his opportunities elsewhere.

Or it may be the case that he hopes to get elected the European Parliament and so no longer considers a place on the Riigikogu board to be that significant. But be that as it may, why should Isamaa give votes to the Center Party at all; one could rather expect for the opposite behavior. After all, Isamaa currently has 10 Riigikogu seats, and thus votes, versus seven for the Center faction.

This brings us to the third option: Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa's leader – ed.) becoming deputy speaker. But in this case, the question then arises as to why Center's MPs would support him. If so, then this would only really be to spite EKRE. On that, EKRE has contributed [to the outcome] with its own actions. With statements like the one [party founder] Mart Helme just made, that EKRE does not want to be in the same frame as the Center Party under Mihhail Kõvart. In this case, again, a few more votes from the coalition, and it all falls in place. That said off course, in order to balance out EKRE, the coalition might also vote for Reinsalu.

Given the attempts to nullify EKRE, there is also the possibility that the coalition may opt to take on both deputy speaker positions. With a divided opposition, this could happen. As mentioned at the start of this piece, this is not customary, but one such custom was already broken a year ago.

In this scenario, the position of the second deputy speaker would go to the third coalition party, i.e. the Social Democrats, in which case why not have Tanel Kiik as a member of the Riigikogu board.

In any case, consensus and a domestic peace would then reach that board.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kaupo Meiel

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