Reform wants Ratas no-confidence vote before Riigikogu summer break ends

The Reform Party wants a vote of no-confidence in the coalition government led by Jüri Ratas (Centre).

The party made the decision at its annual summer days event on Saturday (see gallery). Since the Riigikogu is in recess, Reform wants to convene an extraordinary session in order to hold the vote.

The announcement follows calls for the resignation of Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher, made first by finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) on Thursday on behalf of his father, interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) who was still on vacation, then by Helme senior himself, later on that same day.

The two ministers say that Elmar had falsely claimed that the interior ministry planned to make around 150 redundancies at the police force.

Reform leader Kaja Kallas said Friday that she had not seen events like this before, telling ERR that the prime minister had the choice of either dismissing both ministers, or the entire government stepping down.

"This seems to be a completely new situation in Estonian politics," the Reform chairwoman said.

"I have never heard of a minister causing trouble like this in the area of governance of another minister," she continued.

Reacting to the prime minister's claims that there was no government crisis, following a meeting with both the Helme's on Friday evening, Kallas said that this demonstrated a lack of respect for the rule of law, adding that: "it further shows that he (Ratas) does not perceive the importance of his position and does not qualify for the position," according to ERR's Estonian news portal.

Kallas also noted that there was no chance of her party being in coalition with Jüri Ratas.

Reform won the largest number of seats at the March 3 general election, 34 to Centre's 26 (later 25 after Raimond Kaljulaid quit the party) but immediately found itself locked out of coalition discussions. Centre emerged as the largest party in a triumivrate with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, entering office at the end of May after striking a deal.

"As I said, we intend to issue a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister. How can I be in his government?" Kallas said.

Reform MEP and former prime minister Andrus Ansip wrote on his own social media account Friday that: "This isn't a game. It's a tragedy. There's no government, no prime minister."

The XIV Riigikogu is set to return to work in September. Reform wants to schedule an extraordinary session ahead of that, to hold the no-confidence vote. If it goes ahead, this will be the second such vote proposed by Reform since the coalition entered into office.

In June, the party held a no-confidence vote in interior minister Mart Helme, shortly ahead of the Riigikogu breaking up for summer. That vote failed 53 votes to 46, with 2 abstentions.

Opposition SDE also touting possible no-confidence vote

Under the regulations, a vote of no-confidence cannot be held for a minimum of three months on the same issue. Since the newly proposed vote is on the government and not an individual minister, Reform do not need to wait.

Since the coalition holds a majority of 56 seats in the 101-seat chamber, the vote would require members of the three governmental parties to vote against the government, or abstain, in order to pass.

The last sucessful no-confidence vote in a government came in November 2016, when then-prime minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) was ousted. The two junior coalition parties at the time, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), ditched the Reform Party and went into coalition with Centre under Jüri Ratas.

SDE is now in opposition and has also said it will launch a no-confidence measure against the Helmes, unless the prime minister has relieved them of office, by Aug. 21.

The process of submitting a no-confidence vote involves amassing signatures in its favor, after which a vote is held at parliament on whether the motion can go ahead. Twenty-one votes are needed to actually put the motion to the Riigikogu.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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