Liina Normet, deputy chair of the Estonia 200 party, and a leading member of a national group aimed at eradicating domestic violence, said Thursday that a female minister should replace Marti Kuusik (EKRE), BNS reports.
"EKRE leaders have been given an excellent opportunity to improve the gender balance of Jüri Ratas' masculine-centric new administration, and bring a hard-working woman from their ranks to the newly freed-up ministerial position," Normet said, according to Estonia 200 spokespersons.
"Mart Helme, find a strong woman minister, familiar with the field, to replace Kuusik. You owe it to all the women of Estonia," she continued.
Allegations that Kuusik had engaged in domestic violence appeared in the media soon after the incoming government had been signed-in by President Kersti Kaljulaid. The latter refused to receive Kuusik's oath-signing at the Riigikou Monday, vacating the chamber when it was his turn to step up.
Kuusik stood down Tuesday afternoon in the wake of the allegations, which he refutes, for the good of his family, the party, and the coalition government, he says.
Since Kuusik was from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), it is up to party leader Mart Helme to propose his successor, and not Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre).
"In his prime minister candidate interview, Helme promised that his government would include at least three or four women. Now it's possible for him to fulfill that promise as a man of honor," she added.
Jüri Ratas' cabinet currently includes two women, returning education minister Mailis Reps (Centre), and population affairs minister Riina Solman (Isamaa). His previous cabinet, in office from November 2016 to this April, contained four women ministers at the end of its tenure, though numbers fluctuated during its existence.
While a record number (27) of women MPs was elected at the March 3 general election, and the party winning the largest number of seats, Reform, is led by a woman, Kaja Kallas, no women sit on either the three-person parliamentary board, or chair any parliamentary committees, at present.
"In the 21st century, this distancing from a gender balance is a big step backward. It is difficult to believe that there are not enough capable women in the parties in power for these positions," Normet, who ran for Estonia 200 in the election and is a candidate at the European elections as well, said.
Her party, which narrowly missed out on Riigikogu seats in March, is also led by a woman, Kristina Kallas (no relation to Kaja).
While Kuusik's guilt or innocence is yet to be determined by a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) investigation, and subsequently the courts, Normet said, the incident opened up wounds for tens of thousands of women – perhaps every third or fourth woman – in the country, so were Mart Helme to put up a woman as Kuusik's replacement, that would be a significant step.
"There are many women in Estonia who have strong knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship. Find one, and make her minister. With that, you would prove that you care about, and support, all women in Estonia!" Normet said.
EKRE has three women MPs at present: Helle-Moonika Helme (wife of Mart), Kert Kingo and Kai Rimmel. Government ministers need not, however, be drawn from the Riigikogu – and indeed have to leave parliament when appointed. Former health minister Riina Sikkut (SDE) started work in that post almost exactly a year ago, but was drawn from the ranks of the civil service. She has since taken up a Riigikogu seat.
Editor: Andrew Whyte