Jüri Ratas' cabinet took its oath at the Riigikogu Monday, finalizing and formalizing the entry into office of the coalition comprising his party, Centre, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, ERR's Estonian online news reports.
At the ceremony, presided over by speaker of the house Henn Põlluaas (EKRE), Ratas read out the text of the oath on behalf of himself and his 14 ministers, with the latter signing said oath.
''In taking up the duties of a member of the Government of the [Estonian] Republic, I am conscious that I am assuming responsibility in this office, for the Republic of Estonia, and for my conscience. I pledge solemnly to remain faithful to the constitutional order of the Republic of Estonia, and to dedicate my efforts to safeguarding the well-being and future of the Estonian people,'' the text Ratas read out states.
Each of the three parties gets five ministerial posts, which are as follows:
-Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre)
-Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Centre)
-Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre)
-Minister of Regional Affairs Jaak Aab (Centre)
-Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Centre)
-Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa)
-Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa)
-Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa)
-Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa)
-Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa)
-Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE)
-Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE)
-Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE)
-Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE)
-Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Marti Kuusik (EKRE)
The coalition together has 56 seats, as elected to the Riigikogu on March 3 election – 25 from Centre, 19 from EKRE and 12 from Isamaa.
This lineup passed its vote by 55 votes to 44 on 17 April, after an alternative 44-seat coalition led by Kaja Kallas of the Reform Party failed to pass, and was appointed formally by the president on 24 April at the Kadriorg Palace.
Jüri Ratas returns as premier, having come into office in November 2016 following a vote of no-confidence in then-prime minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform). His new administration is the 16th since the restoration of Estonian independence.
Substitute MPs, replacing nine of the ministers who had won Riigikogu seats on March 3 (since government ministers in Estonia do not sit at the Riigikogu), also took their oaths at the same ceremony.
Meanwhile, President Kersti Kaljulaid wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan ''Sõna on vaba'' to the event, text which would translate as either ''speech is free'' or, even more literally, ''the word is free'' – an oblique reference to the issue of freedom of speech and following controversy on the matter, in particular surrounding the actions of one of the coalition parties, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Both EKRE leader Mart Helme and his son, incoming finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), chose to accompany their signing of the oath with an ''OK'' finger gesture, allegedly either a far-right signal or a ''dog whistle'' gesture aimed at the party's opponents.
Kuusik and Põlluaas both snubbed by president; speaker repeatedly gets president's surname wrong
Further incidents at the oath-taking saw the president leave the chamber at the moment it was the turn of new IT and foreign trade minister, Marti Kuusik (EKRE), to sign his oath, meaning he had to make the customary gesture of thanks to a vacant chair, BNS reports.
Kuusik was at the center of revelations last week that he had been stopped by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in the town of Rakvere, on the morning following the March 3 general election, having been clocked speeding at over 70 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. A breath test revealed Kuusik had trace levels of alcohol in his system.
Further speculation on Kuusik's position followed reports of alleged domestic violence on the incoming minister's part, and that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas had asked EKRE leaders to substitute another party member for Kuusik as a result. The prime minister denied he had put such pressure on the party, it is reported.
Finally, speaker of the house Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) had repeatedly referred to President Kaljulaid as the similar-sounding ''Kaljurand'', BNS reports. The president later rebuffed the opportunity offered her by the speaker to congratulate the new government.
Marina Kaljurand is a Social Democratic Party (SDE) candidate at the European elections in May.
Editor: Andrew Whyte