Justice minister likely to face no-confidence motion soon ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Urmas Reinsalu.
Urmas Reinsalu. Source: (Tauno Tõhk)

The Reform Party announced on Friday that they intend to bring a motion of no confidence against Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) if he doesn't resign by Monday. The step follows Reinsalu's statement earlier this week that he regrets having condemned violence against women. Several MPs of the three coalition parties said on Thursday that they intend to join.

Reinsalu made the statement following the public debate around the choice of the NO99 theatre and director Tiit Ojasoo for the cultural part of this year's Independence Day reception. Ojasoo made headlines in 2016 when it became public that he had shoved a female colleague into the snow, and kicked her twice in the stomach and thighs.

The victim went to the police at the time, but the matter was eventually settled between the parties already before it became public. Ojasoo at the time said that he was sorry, and followed the actions he was required to take in accordance with the compromise agreement he and the victim had signed. The investigation against him for assault was canceled.

After the Office of the President's choice of NO99 and Ojasoo to stage the cultural part of the centennial Independence Day reception on Feb. 24, and that the theatre would receive some €300,000 for it, 104 signatories sent a letter to President Kersti Kaljulaid expressing their disappointment in the choice, and pointing out that it sent the wrong signal.

President Kaljulaid backed the decision to commission the work from NO99, and pointed to any society's need for forgiveness, saying that Ojasoo had repented and apologized.

Several personalities in Estonia's culture and entertainment industry disagreed following the president's statement, pointing to other incidents where Ojasoo had lost his temper and bullied others, and saying that his apology in summer 2016 hadn't been genuine. The debate around whether or not he should be involved in the Estonian centennial continues.

Reinsalu says he regrets having condemned violence against women

Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu also rose to Ojasoo's defense earlier this week, pointing to a statement he had made in 2016 where he condemned violence against women. But seeing how Ojasoo and the matter in general was still treated, he now regretted having made that statement, Reinsalu wrote on social media.

After a meeting with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), Reinsalu apologized for this most recent statement on the same day. Still, the Reform Party decided to initiate work on a vote of no confidence against him, saying that his attitude is not acceptable.

Coalition MPs intend to join motion against Reinsalu

Though the prime minister told ERR on Friday that Reinsalu had the Center Party's support, several MPs of the three coalition parties have signalled their intention to support the opposition in its attempt to replace Reinsalu.

Hannes Hanso (SDE) said that he would go along with it: "I've also told the chairman of SDE's parliamentary group. How can I look my wife, daughters, sisters, and dear women colleagues in the eye if I don't? And half of Estonia's population, namely our women?" Hanso wrote on social media.

The matter is gaining in fervor, as Reinsalu's party recently hasn't been squeamish working against the coalition's politics in parliament, despite the fact that they are a junior partner in it. Beyond that, the parties are all feeling the campaign for the 2019 parliamentary elections approaching fast.

Ligi: Resign by Monday

Talking about the argument that the motion against Reinsalu could trigger a government crisis, Hanso said that a government that insisted on members with Reinsalu's use of language is already in a crisis.

Out of the Social Democrats (SDE), two more MPs planning to join the motion are Heljo Pikhof and Rainer Vakra, ERR's radio news reported.

Out of the Center Party's parliamentary group, MPs Olga Ivanova (independent), Marika Tuus-Laul, Heimar Lenk, Peeter Ernits, and Oudekki Loone intend to join.

Former IRL chairman and now independent member of the Riigikogu, Margus Tsahkna, also said he'd sign the motion.

Chairman of the opposition Reform Party's parliamentary group, Jürgen Ligi, said on Friday that if Reinsalu doesn't resign by Monday, Reform's group will hand in a motion of no confidence against him.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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