The Reform Party has initiated a vote of no-confidence in interior minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Mart Helme, party chair Kaja Kallas announced Thursday morning.
The proposed motion, which Reform is to start collecting signatures for, follows a litany of incidents involving both Mr Helme and his party, during its coalition talks with Centre and Isamaa, and in the two-and-a-half weeks since the coalition entered into office.
These include references to President Kersti Kaljulaid as "emotional, as a woman", following her donning of sweatshirt with a slogan calling for free speech at the coalition swearing-in ceremony, and claims that public broadcaster ERR's U.S. correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe had effectively been peddling fake news throughout her time in the post.
"During the past couple of weeks this government has been in office, interior minister Mart Helme has inflicted substantial damage to the Estonian state's credibility. Such a person cannot be entrusted with the role of minister of the interior and deputy prime minister," Kallas said Thursday.
Other party reactions
Sven Mikser, former foreign secretary and member of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) has already thrown his lot in with Kallas, telling ERR that SDE would probably sign up to the motion.
"We haven't discussed this at party level yet, but there are certainly ten members of our Riigikogu group who have no confidence in Mart Helme or his party," Mikser said.
SDE, with 10 seats after the March 3 election, found itself out in the cold in the coalition negotiations. An alliance with Reform, with 44 seats, did not pass a Riigikogu vote, meaning the president passed the prime ministerial nomination to Jüri Ratas, the Centre leader.
Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said that his party probably would not join in with the no-confidence motion, saying that the move was politicking as a part of the run up to the European Parliament elections.
"We're unlikely to get involved with this, because the new government has barely picked its full complement of ministers." Seeder said.
"Only this morning did the latest minister take her Riigikogu oath (Kert Kingo-ed.). The government thus can only start working today. Starting on its first day with a motion of censure, creating confrontation and confusion in the lead-up to the European elections, creating instabliity for the new government taking office,'' Seeder went on, enumerating what he sees as Reform's tactics.
Instead, stability is needed, Seeder said.
Centre, the largest party in the coalition with EKRE and Isamaa, seems also unlikely to sign-up to the motion, both in the light of the European elections and in its traditional adversarial role where Reform is concerned.
"All these activities, in this context and with the elections, are defintely adding some political excitement," said Kadri Simson, the party's former minister of economic affairs.
One person who has said Reform can count him in is Raimond Kaljulaid. A so-called window-seat MP, referring to the location in the Riigikogu chamber where he now sits as an independent, Raimond Kaljulaid quit the Centre party on the issue of the negotiations with EKRE. He is also running for the European Parliament.
"I don't see any reason to trust Mart Helme. He has shown in the first few days in office that he is not a person who should sit in the executive," Kaljulaid said.
The motion would need six more votes to pass
One fifth or more of the Riigikogu (i.e. 21 MPs in the 101-seat chamber) can initiate a no-confidence motion. However, for the motion to pass, it requires 51 or more votes. Assuming all Reform (34) and SDE (10) MPs vote in favor of the motion, plus Raimond Kaljulaid, six more votes from the three governmental parties would be required.
When the current coalition lineup faced its Riigikogu vote in April, only one of its MPs (Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits, Isamaa) dissented.
Editor: Andrew Whyte