EKRE mulls forming 'defence units' after poster defacing, death threats

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Martin Helme talking to ERR at a recent EKRE council meeting.
Martin Helme talking to ERR at a recent EKRE council meeting. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has said it might set up ''defence units'' aimed at protecting its members, according to party deputy chair Martin Helme.

Mr Helme, son of party chief Mart Helme, and an MP, said that the move might be necessary to ''contain'' those who he claimed attack or threaten the party, if the police and other state authorities appear not up to the task.

"If the state does not defend us, we must defend us ourselves,'' said Mr Helme, according to BNS.

''Is EKRE starting to organise defense units of its own what the 'tolerationists' want? Be careful with what you wish for, they [ie. your wishes] may come true!" Mr Helme continued, noting defacing of EKRE election posters in Tallinn and death threats against parliamentary candidates were two recent examples of attacks on the party.

State quick to act in Kattai case says Helme

"Of course we will turn to the police; defacing posters obstructs our campaigning and prevents the legal expression of political views. This unequivocally is a crime in Estonia. Considering that in Tallinn ' big brother' has a wide reach, with cameras everywhere, the culprits should be identified quickly," Mr Helme continued.

Political parties are permitted to advertise on outdoor hoardings until around six weeks before the general election on 3 March; most of the major parties have done so.

"The state's response to a death threat made on social media has been relatively tough in the past,'' Mr Helme continued, referring to a death threat made on social media against then-Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas in 2015 by Martin Kattai. Mr Kattai, then 31, was sentenced to three months in prison in 2016 and his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court.

"A very vigorous investigation – searches, seizures of computers, arrests -- and a quick trial ended with a guilty verdict [in that case]. If the same standard is not applied now, this will demonstrate that Estonia is not a country of the rule of law and different rules apply to different people," Mr Helme claimed.

AfD case

"If you are otherwise unable to find the strength in yourselves to speak up in defense of EKRE, take your clues from your mental mother Angela Merkel, who unambiguously condemned the beating of the AfD deputy in Germany," Mr Helme went on, referring to the recent attack on Frank Magnitz, an MP with the far right/populist AfD party, in Bremen city centre, which resulted in Mr Magnitz being hospitalised.

"Even the Socialists of Germany said that 'even' with AfD such behavior is not acceptable. President, prime minister, speaker – show that you are concerned not only for those who are your own, but truly about the functioning of democracy," Mr Helme went on.

He also criticised the media for creating what he described as an atmosphere in society where the major mainstream media are citing a Nazi threat on a daily basis and shaping an "approach whereby one political party can be foulmouthed and slandered, threatened and flouted" and that ''political violence'' against such parties is seen as valid.

"Media, you are the culprits," he added.

The recent poster ad campaign conducted by Estonia 200 which highlighted the issue of non-integration between Estonian and Russian communities, featuring the slogan ''Estonians only here'' and ''Russians only here'' in both languages, was attacked as being reminiscent of Nazi-controlled Germany, by interior minister Katri Raik.

Donations rising

Meanwhile, EKRE reportedly raised €83,342 donations in Q4 of 2018, a five-fold increase on the previous three quarters of the year combined. This compares with around €66,000 in donations received by the relatively newly formed Estonia 200 over the same period. The total amount donated to EKRE in 2018 stood at €106,790, it is reported, with businessman Argo Luude donating €13,000.

Other finances

EKRE membership fees in Q4 2018 came to €4,059 from over 300 members. The total amount of membership fees for the year was €17,288, from a little under 1,400 members. The Reform Party, like EKRE in opposition, received a little over €27,000 in membership fees in 2018, by comparison.

EKRE also received €375,160 in state subsidies (something which all elected parties are entitled to and doled out in proportion to size).

EKRE total revenue for 2018 stood at €513,056, a little over a quarter of that for Reform.

Update: PPA investigating

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has opened misdemeanor proceedings following on the issue of the EKRE poster defacement in Tallinn, it is reported.

"Defacing and vandalising posters is a misdemeanor,'' Valdo Põder of the PPA's North Prefecture told BNS on Friday.

''We have opened a misdemeanor proceeding and will try and find out who committed the wrongdoing, to bring these people to responsibility," he continued.

Mr Põder also addressed the alleged death threats made against EKRE members, in more general terms:

"Making death threats, if there are grounds to fear that they might be carried out, is a criminal offence, so it is definitely worthwhile informing the PPA of such incidents. When the PPA receives such crime reports, investigators will handle it as soon as possible and decide, in conjunction with a prosecutor, whether there are grounds for an investigation to be opened in that specific case and what the next steps will be," he went on, without specifying whether EKRE has approached them in connection with said alleged death threat(s). 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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