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Center parliamentary group in deadlock choosing new whip

The Center Party parliamentary group in the Session Hall of the Riigikogu.
The Center Party parliamentary group in the Session Hall of the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Center Party parliamentary group can't elect a new chair yet, as changes to the lineups of Riigikogu committees must be made first, said group deputy chair Andrei Korobeinik, who is awaiting a solution from President of the Riigikogu Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200).

"We discussed the parliamentary group leadership matter within the party board, but we can't hold elections because there hasn't been an ounce of progress," Korobeinik told ERR Thursday. "I've discussed this with Lauri Hussar. He said that negotiations are underway with unaffiliated MPs, but didn't specify when these negotiations might come to a successful conclusion."

Following their departure from the opposition Center Party and joining the coalition Social Democratic Party (SDE), MPs Tanel Kiik, Jaak Aab, Andre Hanimägi and Ester Karuse officially became unaffiliated MPs, as an MP is permitted to leave their parliamentary group during a Riigikogu term, but may not join another one.

Even so, they are likely to support the ruling Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition in their decisions and votes.

Korobeinik fears that Hussar may interpret the MPs who switched parties as not being representatives of the coalition.

"That again goes against all previous practice," he pointed out.

"I hope it still reaches one solution or another," the Center MP said. "I get that this is quite the convenient situation for the coalition. However, I don't believe that they're serious about taking full control of all the important committees. They already have the votes anyway. I don't believe they don't care at all about the opposition's opinion."

He acknowledged, however, that the Center Party is in a hurry with these decisions.

"We have important committees where we lack representation altogether," he explained. "We're awaiting Aleksandr Tšaplõgin's transfer to the Social Affairs Committee, where we aren't covered at all. We're also facing a situation where both the chair and the deputy chair of the Finance Committee are representatives of the coalition, which goes against parliamentary practice."

The Center group deputy chair himself is likewise a member of the Finance Committee.

He hopes to speak with Hussar again the Monday after next. "Nothing more is going on this week, and next week is a no-sitting week," he explained. "I sincerely hope that things will start moving after that."

Speaker: Nothing stopping Center group

Speaking to ERR on Thursday, Hussar stated that nothing is holding Center up in electing themselves a new party whip.

"There is nothing currently stopping the [new] Center Party group whip from being elected," he said. "They could elect the Center Party group whip right now, today. There's certainly nothing here stopping them."

"As regards the committees, since we've ended up with a substantial number of unaffiliated MPs, there have already been shifts in committees," he explained. "Negotiations are currently underway between parliamentary groups as well as between the Board of the Riigikogu and parliamentary groups in order to ensure several principles, and one principle also involves how to ensure the proportionality of political forces within the committees."

The Board of the Riigikogu also has to assess the committees' operational capacity, he added.

Commenting on Kiik, Aab, Hanimägi and Karus, Hussar said that under the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, these four MPs cannot be considered coalition MPs.

"The coalition currently consists of Reform Party, Eesti 200 and Social Democratic Party parliamentary group MPs," he said. "And unaffiliated MPs aren't currently formally coalition members either; their signatures aren't on the coalition agreement either, and therefore it's very difficult to consider them a natural part of the coalition."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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