PM speaks out against wider effects of physical confrontation in politics

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) in a video addressing the issue of discord and physical confrontation in the Estonian political scene.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) in a video addressing the issue of discord and physical confrontation in the Estonian political scene. Source: ERR

The recent unrest and scuffling that marred Monday's Riigikogu vote on the UN Global Migration Compact are quite un-Estonian, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) has explained.

Speaking on a video recorded in his office and posted on his social media account, Mr Ratas said he hoped that those involved would find it in their hearts to repent of their actions, and expressed his disappointment that the incident, which arose during a demonstration by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) had happened, without actually naming any names.

''Over the past few weeks, events in Estonian society and public have sincerely made me sad. Our people do not shove, hit or physically confront each other in any way,'' Mr Ratas said, obliquely referring to the incident outside the Riigikogu.

Toompea incident shouldn't set precedent

''Somehow these have unconsciously become a commonplace in the media, social media and public opinion, and what is worst, in actual actions,'' he went on.

Multiple videos emerged of Indrek Tarand, an MEP who is running for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in the general election, taking control of a microphone and stepping up on to the platform at the demonstration, despite EKRE MP Martin Helme's initial attempts to prevent him.

After making remarks mocking EKRE's stance, which is one of strong opposition to the compact, Mr Tarand was shoved off the stage, and in the ensuing scuffle and confrontation with EKRE supporters attending the rally, fell to the floor and received at least one kick before being bundled away.

The police subsequently decided against an investigation of Mr Tarand for "Interference with or violent dispersion of a lawfully organised public meeting" according to § 158 of the Penal Code, for which EKRE had called following the incident, at which SDE party leader Jevgeni Ossinovski and foreign minister Sven Mikser, also from the party, were present.

SDE/EKRE interface

EKRE and SDE are at polar opposites on the compact and other issues, but are also fighting for the same ground inasmuch as they are the two parties both most likely to affect the composition of the coalition after the next election, with SDE wanting to retain its current spot in said coalition. EKRE has stated its refusal to work with SDE in government, something which has been reciprocated. The two largest parties, Centre and Reform, have also stated they would not be in office with EKRE.

The split on the issue of the UN compact saw Mr Ratas' coalition at risk of surviving the rest of its term. In taking something of a back seat initially, he has seen it resolved and no actual governmental collapse, something which was also on many peoples' lips, though Mr Ratas does not mention it in the video.

Lessons to learn

''I believe that those who struck another person now regret it in their hearts. Noone would wish to receive such treatment or see it meted out to their loved ones. If some members of society feel they must employ violence and others then justify that, then we have not been performing our role adequately,'' Mr Ratas continued in his video.

''We all need to learn from the incident,'' he added, referring again to the Tarand-EKRE face-off, noting that a country which is celebrating its centenary of independence is strong enough to recognise and understand these things, and to act more wisely together.

''We have common values and a direction we need to move towards. We want to build a country where we can live well, and safely. A society where each member can feel content and cared for. We can only do this together, with each and every one of us contributing jointly,'' he continued.

The full video (in Estonian) is available here.

The general election is confirmed for 3 March 2019.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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