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MPs rattled over president's Anniversary of the Republic reception snub

Alar Karis delivering his Anniversary of the Republic speech.
Alar Karis delivering his Anniversary of the Republic speech.

Several Riigikogu MPs have expressed annoyance at the decision by Estonian President Alar Karis to invite only the Riigikogu leadership along with party leaders, chairs and vice-chairs of Riigikogu committees and leaders of the Riigikogu groups to the reception marking the Anniversary of the Republic. As a result, the majority of Riigikogu MPs will not be able to attend.

Jürgen Ligi (Reform) wrote a particularly scathing comment on the Facebook wall of former politician Liia Hänn, who also condemned Karis' decision. "This president has no understanding of parliamentarianism," Ligi said, adding that everyone in the Riigikogu had been tarred with the same brush. "He doesn't seem to have a single adviser who understands the state, not the news threshold."

Ligi's party colleague Margit Sutrop was also critical, writing in Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht that not inviting Riigikogu MPs to the event is an insult to the Riigikogu.

"I was shocked to read that you decided not to invite some members of the Riigikogu to the Anniversary of the Republic Day reception this year. This is an affront to the dignity of a constitutional institution, and does nothing to protect the independence of the Republic of Estonia, which today is more fragile than ever," Sutrop said.

"I take the failure to invite some members of the Riigikogu as an insult to the Riigikogu. It is an abrogation of the Riigikogu," Sutrop added.

They were joined by Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE). "I understand that the president felt it necessary to punish and humiliate the members of the Riigikogu by not inviting them. This is an understandable message, but I think it is rather a bad decision," Kaljulaid wrote on social media.

 "The reception on February 24 is one of the few national events that brings together people from different walks of life and with different world views to remind us of what unites us – Estonia," he said. "The president must be a unifier."

Kaljulaid's new party colleague Ester Karuse told Estonian news outlet Postimees that she was "very disappointed as a young, new member of the Riigikogu with a district mandate".

Karuse also confessed that she had already ordered a dress for this year's Republic Day reception and had already paid half the cost for it. "Estonia is a parliamentary republic, and this step diminishes the role of the Riigikogu!" Karuse told the newspaper, adding that the move was unprecedented and marked the end of a long-standing tradition.

However, Eero Raun, who was previously a spokesperson for former Estonian President Arnold Rüütel, recalled that this was not the first time that members of the Riigikogu had not been invited to the reception.

"Lennart Meri made exactly the same decision a quarter of a century ago. At the time, it led to a personal affront from some MPs, whose wives had already ordered a new dress," Raun said in reply to Sutrop.

"The fact that President Alar Karis did not invite a large number of MPs is certainly not a conscious insult to the Riigikogu," Raun added.

 "As a former organizer of the anniversary ceremony, I am convinced that the president, as the host of the party, definitely has the right to decide by himself who to invite this time. And if he decides on this occasion to give preference, even if only for regional political reasons, to people who will only be invited once in their lifetime over those who have been going there for many years, there is no reason to call this choice an abrogation of parliament," Raun said.

"It is also an obvious overreaction to connect this to the filibuster in the Riigikogu, when the reason for such a choice is simply the limited amount of seating in the theater. I propose to all members of the Riigikogu: please publicly support the construction of the Estonian National Opera complex - then future heads of state will really be able to invite all MPs and their companions to the party every year. Whether there are 101 members in the Riigikogu or less (as Lennnart Meri also proposed)," Raun concluded.

This year's anniversary reception will take place on February 24 at the Estonia Theater and Concert Hall in Tallinn, with Jaan-Eik Tulve as artistic director and Maria Peterson as stage director. Traditionally, people from many walks of life have been invited to the reception, including, for example, cultural and sporting personalities who have distinguished themselves over the past year, promoters of education, mental health advocates, social activists, politicians, civil servants and ambassadors accredited to Estonia.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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