Mikser likely to challenge Põlluaas as candidate for Riigikogu president

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) addressing the Riigikogu.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) addressing the Riigikogu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

If the coalition being formed by the Centre Party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isaaa on 4 April nominates EKRE deputy chairman Henn Põlluaas as its candidate for President of the Riigikogu, the opposition may nominate Social Democrat (SDE) and outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser as his opponent.

The KEI coalition is eyeing not just the position of president of the Riigikogu but also that of one of two vice-presidents. The three negotiating parties have allegedly agreed to throw its weight behind EKRE deputy chairman Henn Põlluaas for the Board of the Riigikogu's highest position.

The Reform Party, which earned a significant win in the 3 March general election but looks likely to end up in the opposition nonetheless, is together with the SDE considering nominating Mr Mikser to challenge Mr Põlluaas.

As the latter two parties only hold  combined 44 seats in the 101-seat Riigikogu, they hope to secure the necessary additional votes from the Centre parliamentary group, where several members have expressed dissatisfaction with the inclusion of EKRE in government coalition talks initiated by party chairman Jüri Ratas.

"The likelihood that we will get seven votes in support of Mikser from the Centre group is nevertheless not very great," a Reform politician speculated. "Unfortunately it's more likely that the Centre Party will straighten its people out one by one enough that everyone but Raimond Kaljulaid will vote for Põlluaas, regardless of how they feel about it personally."

Mr Mikser and Mr Põlluaas have previously butted heads and exchanged sharp remarks in the Riigikogu, most recently during discussion over the UN Global Compact for Migration, which the latter called a "new and devious immigration pump" before demanding the former's resignation as minister. In response, Mr Mikser made statements about the EKRE politician which he later declined to take back.

"If there is anything here to regret, it is first and foremost the fact that I (and not just I) have occasionally previously remained silent out of either laziness, convenience or cowardice when some other tolerant person is threatened, bullied or trolled," Mr Mikser said at the time.

According to the Constitution of Estonia, the president of the Riigikogu ranks between the president and the prime minister in Estonia, and fills in for the president if necessary.

President Kersti Kaljulaid sent her own message to MPs already, signing late on 31 March a decision convening the XIV Riigikogu for its opening sitting on 4 March.

"I hope that every MP to receive a mandate from the people carefully considers what their responsibility is," Ms Kaljulaid was quoted by spokespeople as saying. "An MP is free in their mandate. They are not accountable to their party's supporters, the head of their parliamentary group, or even strictly to the people of a particular region. First and foremost, every MP is accountable to the people of Estonia — accountable to our state. Accountable to the fact that the spirit of our Constitution is honoured, and that the freedoms and values dear to our state and people are defended."

Board of the Riigikogu to be elected 4 April

The President and two Vice-Presidents of the Riigikogu are elected in a secret ballot at the first sitting of the new Riigikogu, for which the State Electoral Office will provide voting booths in the foyer of the Session Hall.

According to prior logic, the position of First Vice-President of the Riigikogu should go to the smallest partner in a government coalition, which in this case would be Isamaa. Allegedly, however, Isamaa is focussing on earning a seat in the upcoming European Parliament elections, which could possibly go to outgoing Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu. Should the new coalition agree, Centre's Enn Eesmaa may continue as first vice-president of the Riigikogu, a position he has held for the past two and a half years.

Reform is vying for the position of Second Vice-President of the Riigikogu, the likely candidate for which will be party honorary chairman, former European Commission Vice President, and former prime minister Siim Kallas.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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