Reform Party publishes text of Helme no-confidence motion

Interior minister and deputy prime minister Mart Helme (EKRE).
Interior minister and deputy prime minister Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Government Office.

Opposition Reform Party has made public the text of its no-confidence motion in Mart Helme (EKRE), the interior minister and, as deputy prime minister, effectively the government's number two after Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

The motion is to be handed to the Riigikogu for voting next week, ERR's online Estonian news reports, and is based around damage Reform says he has done to Estonia's reputation, insults to various social groups, and allegations of dishonesty.

As reported on ERR News, Reform announced it was putting together the motion last week. No-confidence motions in the government or its ministers require a minimum of 21 signatures from MPs at the 101-seat Riigikogu, in order to be put in front of parliament.

To pass, it would require a majority of 51 votes or more. Reform can count on 45 votes: 34 from its own MPs, 10 from the other opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE), plus one from independent Raimond Kaljulaid, meaning it would need another six votes from disaffected MPs from the three coalition parties, to pass.

"Once this government took office, and even before that, interior minister Mart Helme has damaged the reputation of the Estonian state, the reputation of its subordinate agencies, and he has demonstrated by his actions that he does not understand the responsibilities required of a member of the government," Reform's no-confidence motion preamble reads.

"Mart Helme has, as a member of the government, verbally attacked and humiliated women, social experts, journalists, and the rule of law," it continues. 

The statement goes on to say that Helme should have resigned due not only to the damage incurred to Estonia's reputation, but also threats to its security, insults to various social groups, and the incitement of discord amongst the general public.

ERR's online Estonian news published, unabridged, five reasons given by the Reform Party for Helme's resignation, some of which have followed their announcement of the impending motion, which are summarized as follows:

1. Martin Helme's words in the wake of allegations of domestic violence against Marti Kuusik (EKRE), the incoming IT minister. Kuusik subsequently had to resign following the allegations, but Reform felt that Helme had issued threats at a May 2 press conference, where he said he and his party knew who had been spreading "rumors" about Kuusik and had approached the police and the media on it. "Rakvere [where Kuusik lives] is a small town," Helme stated.

Reform stated that either issuing threats or belittling the subject of domestic violence were actions not befitting of an interior minister.

2. As deputy prime minister, he has damaged Estonia's relations with his allies, leading to Estonia being portrayed as a "fascist" country in the international media.

Even Jüri Luik (Isamaa), the minister of defense, had expressed his unease at the visit of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, at EKRE's behest, at the same time he, Luik, was due to visit incoming French NATO troops at the Tapa base.

This was exacerbated by rhetoric from Helme's party, and the emergence of a photo on social media of Le Pen making an "OK" hand gesture, nowadays come to be synonymous with the far right regardless of its origins and earlier meanings, with an EKRE member (Le Pen said she was unaware of the significance of the gesture at the time).

3. Referring to President Kersti Kaljulaid as "emotional, as a woman" at the May 2 press conference, and on May 19 making insulting remarks about women when talking about the appointment of Kuusik's replacement, Kert Kingo, who is a woman.

4. Making false allegations that the previous coalition, Reform, SDE and Isamaa, had been engaged in large-scale money laundering via Estonian banks, allegations which Jüri Ratas rebutted, on the basis of information he had received from the police and the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA).

5. A systematic attack on journalists, most recently when appearing on ETV talk show "Esimene stuudio", where he accused ERR's U.S. correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe as effectively peddling fake news during her time in the role, principally concerning the Trump administration there. Helme had refused to retract these statements when questioned about them at the Riigikogu, Reform said.

Government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, but are required to regularly appear there for questioning by MPs.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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