A motion of no-confidence in interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) failed to pass at the Riigikogu Monday evening.
Fifty-three MPs voted against the motion, brought to the Riigikogu by the opposition Reform Party, and 46 voted in favor. Two MPs were absent from the chamber, BNS reports.
The motion stated that Mart Helme had been undermining Estonia's international reputation and its relations with its allies, as well as insulting various groups in society, being dishonest, and violating electoral law in urging the public to vote for his party on a radio broadcast on election day.
Mart Helme is deputy prime minister, and Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) leader, in addition to being interior minister.
"Mart Helme has done harm to Estonia's reputation. He has denounced women, scientists, the rule of law," Reform leader Kaja Kallas said.
"When there were doubts about minister Marti Kuusik, Helme stated that sources had been investigated and even their names were known. It was a threat to all these sources. The minister of the interior should have invited people to stand up and testify to find out the truth. But instead, the minister threatened [people]," Kallas continued.
Former IT and foreign trade minister Marti Kuusik (EKRE) resigned after one day in office, amidst allegations of domestic violence on his part. Kallas was referring to statements made on Kuusik's leaving office, at the end of April, by Helme, who noted that the allegations were media gossip and that his party knew where the sources were located, principally in Rakvere, where Kuusik lives.
Kallas also noted the recurring use of an "OK" hand gesture, now associated with far-right or white supremacists groups, by both Helme and other EKRE members in recent weeks.
"Helme has used a white supremacist hand gesture and along with his party has welcomed Marine Le Pen, thus damaging Estonia's reputation. On May 2, Helme called President Kersti Kaljulaid 'an emotionally heated woman,' thus offending, in addition to the president, also other women," Kallas said.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party in France, was invited to Tallinn earlier in May by EKRE and attended a summit of similarly-aligned European party leaders.
President Kaljulaid vacated the chamber when Marti Kuusik came up to sign his oath on entering office.
Kaja Kallas, who announced the proposed no-confidence motion in mid-May and got 45 signatures before bringing it to the Riigikogu (21 signatures are needed under Estonian electoral law before a motion can be voted on), implied that there was no scope for sitting on the fence on the issue.
"As a member of the government, Helme has knowingly lied when it comes to the issue of money laundering. Helme has also offended scientists. He should have resigned for undermining Estonia's reputation and threatening its security, as well as for inciting hatred. Since this has not happened, it is necessary to express no confidence in him. We are expressing no confidence in Interior Minister Mart Helme. If you do not support the motion of censure, you consider such practice appropriate for a minister," she added.
The 45 who signed the motion into being were all opposition Reform and Social Democratic Party (SDE) MPs in the Riigikogu, plus Raimond Kaljulaid, a former Centre MP who quit the party in early April, protesting Centre's coalition talks with EKRE.
These 45, plus one coalition MP, Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits (Isamaa) voted in favor of the motion. Ladõnskaja-Kubits was also the only member of the current coalition parties, Centre, EKRE and Isamaa, to vote against the lineup entering into office. The opposition would have required five more coalition MPs to vote on the motion for it to pass.
Mart Helme response
Mart Helme noted that the entire text of the motion of censure was like badly written essay, and ought instead to be directed against the Reform Party itself.
"When you (the Reform Party-ed.) have been deceiving people for 17 years and creating a situation in which many do not want to see you in power, you should express no-confidence in yourself. But let us look at the text of this motion of censure. The charges against Marti Kuusik have collapsed; there is nothing. The presumption of innocence applies to everyone. There was no unlawful surveillance, so the accusations are totally unjust and wrong," Helme said.
"As for damaging Estonia in the media, defamatory information has been shared abroad, foremost from Estonia," Helme added.
He also stated an unwillingness to sit idly in the government, as many previous ministers have done.
"I plan to be aggressive and act," Helme said.
Under electoral law, once a no-confidence motion has failed, a minimum of three months should pass before a new motion, on the same issue, can be submitted, meaning the earliest Reform could draw-up a new motion against Helme is early September.
Editor: Andrew Whyte