Twelve former interior ministers denounce EKRE public disturbance warning

Mart Helme (left) and Martin Helme at a recent torchlight parade.
Mart Helme (left) and Martin Helme at a recent torchlight parade. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Twelve former interior ministers have issued a pronouncement condemning statements by leaders of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Mart Helme and Martin Helme, that Estonia is in for popular unrest from its supporters, if opponents succeed in foiling the ongoing coalition talks, daily Postimees reports.

"Despite our differing world views and political choices, we as interior ministers cannot approve of any call that could be construed as an incitement to, or justification of, mass unrest. Words carry a lot of power in politics. Each word must therefore be weighed carefully, and the scope of one's responsibility understood," the statement reads, signed by former interior ministers from across much of the political spectrum, including Katri Raik (SDE – technically still the incumbent minister), Edgar Savisaar and Olari Taal.

EKRE is currently in coalition negotiations with the Centre Party and Isamaa.

Speaking on a show aired on regional radio station Tre Raadio on Sunday, EKRE deputy chair Martin Helme said that the rallies that EKRE supporters have held to date will pale in comparison with what its supporters will start staging on the streets if "the deep state, the media industry complex and the Reform Party succeed in foiling" the ongoing coalition negotiations.

EKRE has held an annual torchlight procession on the streets of the Estonian capital on the evening of independence day, 24 February, since its inception in 2012. Other recent demos include a gathering of supporters outside the Riigikogu in November, in opposition to Estonia's accession to the UN global migration compact. That time, a scuffle ensued after Social Democratic Party (SDE) candidate and MEP Indrek Tarand mounted a podium erected by the EKRE leadership and attempted to address the party's gathered supporters. Mr Tarand was pushed, kicked at least once, and swiftly escorted from the scene by security personnel.

EKRE chair Mart Helme, father of Mart, has also stated that the Reform Party should be able to understand, in all its brashness, that it is playing with fire.

"There are 300,000 people, who are poor or living on the verge of poverty in Estonia, who hate the Reform Party. Most of them stand behind the three parties that are forming a coalition at present. If our cause is foiled and we throw the match into the powder keg, there will be an explosion. No deep state will prevent that, no European Commission will prevent that," he said.

Not in the national interest

Reform won the highest number of seats, 34, at the 3 March election, but has not been able to find coalition partners with enough seats to exceed the 51 needed for a Riigikogu majority. Centre, which together with Reform could have made a 60-seat majority, rebuffed Reform soon after the election, and the latter had consistently stated its unwillingness to work with EKRE on any terms, both before, during and after the election.

The current putative Centre/EKRE/Isamaa alignment, popularly called EKRE-KEI, would have 57 seats, but is soon entering into its third week of discussions without too many concrete agreements made on various issues.

"The tension in society that there is now is a 'child's mumble' compared with what there will be if we are pushed aside," Martin Helme added, in Sunday's broadcast.

EKRE picked up 18 seats on 3 March, a near-tripling of its pre-election sum.

The ex-interior ministers added their doubts as to whether EKRE voters in fact gave a mandate to the Helmes to incite public disturbance.

"Each politician must understand that their position requires maturity in actions and words, not threatening and incitement to violence, even indirectly," it stands in the statement.

"Threats about throwing a match into the powder keg and causing an explosion in society should the current consultations fail do not belong in the Estonian realm of values. Making calls for a standoff runs against the state's interests and the national interests of Estonia. It divides, not unites society. We remember all too clearly from the recent past what this may lead to, both physically and mentally," the statement reads.

EKRE itself has been on the receiving end of some disturbances too, including the defacing of pre-election posters, investigated by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA).

The full list of signatories to the declaration is: Kalle Laanet, Margus Leivo, Tarmo Loodus, Lagle Parek, Hanno Pevkur, Katri Raik, Mart Rask, Edgar Savisaar, Ain Seppik, Riivo Sinijarv, Olari Taal and Toomas Varek.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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