According to information available to daily Postimees, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme has told leaders of the coalition parties that he will in no way agree to Lavly Perling continuing as prosecutor general.
Leaders of the coalition Centre Party, EKRE and Isamaa met in the second half of last week and, according to Postimees, discussed among other things the term of office of the prosecutor general, which ends this autumn.
Several sources report that, at this meeting, EKRE chairman Mart Helme had essentially vetoed supporting Perling continuing in her post.
"There was something more or less of that nature indeed," said Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa), under whose jurisdiction the appointment of the prosecutor general falls. "But I definitely want to talk to Mart Helme again regarding this matter."
Thus far, Aeg and Helme have been unable to meet this week. "We have both had foreign visits and so on," the former said. "But I believe that we will definitely converse very soon."
Helme himself has refused to comment on the matter to either Postimees or ERR. "These are the kinds of things within the coalition that I will not comment on," he told the paper on Monday. "Wait until the official announcement regarding the coalition's joint stance is made. Do not ask me any more questions."
By law, the prosecutor general is appointed by the Estonian government at the proposal of the Minister of Justice after hearing the opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu. It is customary for the government to make such decisions in a consensual manner. Until they can be certain of a consensus, the Minister of Justice cannot name a candidate before the government.
Asked whether Helme had made any categorical comments regarding Perling at the meeting, Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said that they had not really discussed the issue on the party level yet. "Well, there may have been something in passing," he added.
Seeder: Not our decision
Seeder noted that he didn't consider it right for party chairmen to make official statements regarding such a matter, as the appointment of the prosecutor general should not be a party political decision.
"As the leader of [Isamaa], I have responded that we have have no problem with Perling, and have heard that EKRE does," he said. "However, the parties have not discussed any candidates separately with one another, and will not do so either. After all, this falls within the jurisdiction of the minister of justice."
He also declined to respond when asked what would happen if EKRE ministers refused to accept a candidate proposed by the Isamaa justice minister.
"I will not speculate, as a solution will hopefully be found beforehand after all," Seeder said. "Thus far, no high state official has been left unappointed. It is common for counterparties to have different opinions. I don't think this will cause any sort of turmoil."
Helme: Nobody wants change
Helme has previously told ERR that his party is worried about Perling's alleged conflict of interest.
"After all, we see her family relations with one security organization, which we believe would not have the best impact on Estonia's legal system," he told ERR news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera," referring to the fact that Perling is married to Martin Perling, deputy director general of the Internal Security Service (ISS).
Perling has since responded to the criticism, noting that this issue had already been thoroughly discussed prior to her current appointment.
Speaking at the EKRE party congress in Jõhvi last Saturday, the interior minister also cited dissatisfaction with what was happening in the state's security authorities.
In his speech, Helme said that the country has stagnated, and that the police, border guard, courts, state-owned companies, the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) as well as the Prosecutor's Office would all require reforms.
"I can say that, after a little more than a month of being minister, nobody in Estonia really wants changes," the party chairman said. "Changes are not wanted by our coalition partners, the opposition or officials."
Matter to be picked up after summer recess
Lavly Perling's term of office as prosecutor general is to end this October. Postimees has previously reported that a candidate's background check will take quite a bit of time, and that the appointment process goes through the Riigikogu.
Thus, the matter will not be resolved until autumn at the earliest, as the last plenary sitting of the Riigikogu before summer recess takes place on Thursday, and the Riigikogu will not convene again for another two months.
"I see no problems yet, timewise," Aeg said. "We have until October. This window is not that narrow."
Editor: Aili Vahtla