The fall term in the Riigikogu may prove tense for the government coalition, which consists of the Center Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), as they have lost the majority in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees of the Riigikogu.
The Center Party parliamentary group made a change on Monday, switching Olga Ivanova, who had been a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, with Toomas Paur, who was a member of the National Defence Committee — a move that, seemingly technical in nature, clearly hinted at the party's Monday night decision to expel Ivanova from the party, wrote daily Postimees (link in Estonian).
Last week, the Board of the Riigikogu received Marko Mihkelson and Margus Tsahkna's resignations from the IRL parliamentary group, and as Tsahkna was a member of the National Defence Committee, this meant that the coalition lost their majority in that committee five to six ahead of Monday's opening session. Should Ivanova leave the Center Party parliamentary group, the coalition will be outnumbered in that committee seven to four.
Postimees found that these numbers should balance themselves out in the coming weeks, however, as the committee does not include a single IRL member anymore and Riigikogu rules dictate that the party appoint one of its parliamentary group members there in order to maintain balance in the committees. IRL currently has two members each in the Economic Affairs, Constitutional and Finance Committees, so the party will have to recall a member from one of these committees.
As the coalition currently has a one-person majority in each of these committees, but these committees are integral to getting bills introduced on the floor of the Riigikogu, the coalition has to bring in one new member. The daily found that one good option would be to pull someone from the Rural Affairs Committee, where the coalition currently has three Center members and a two-person majority.
Paper: Two IRL MPs leaving parliamentary group puts coalition in bind
Daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) wrote that the IRL parliamentary group, which has shrunk to just 12 members, has found itself in a complicated situation and put its coalition partners, particularly the Center Party, in one as well, as two MPs leaving the IRL parliamentary group means a reshuffling of Riigikogu committees, and it cannot be ruled out that the coalition may lose its majority in one of them.
The IRL parliamentary group currently has one more member than there are standing committees, which means they must appoint a member to each committee. Until now, however, Tsahkna was the only IRL member in the National Defence Committee, who must now be replaced by another MP.
According to the paper, the issue is that IRL has two members each in three very important committees — the Constitutional Committee, the Finance Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee, in each of which the coalition currently maintains only a one-vote majority. Should an IRL parliamentary group member be shifted from any of these committees to the National Defence Committee, that would leave an even number of members in the other committee, rendering it incapable of reaching decision in case of a tie.
Eesti Päevaleht found that it is possible that IRL will be helped out by its coalition partners, particularly the Center Party, which has 27 MPs, and multiple members in each standing committee, and could afford to shift one of them to a committee that would be left with an even number of members following the shift of an IRL member to the National Defence Committee.
IRL chairman and parliamentary group chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said that it will be possible to shift MPs from committees where they maintain a larger majority to committees where the majority is smaller. "This requires that we discuss the situation in the coalition, which we will in the near future," he noted.
Editor: Aili Vahtla