Over half-dozen former interior ministers call for Mart Helme resignation

Hanno Pevkur (Reform) is one of seven former interior ministers calling for Mart Helme's resignation in an open letter Sunday.
Hanno Pevkur (Reform) is one of seven former interior ministers calling for Mart Helme's resignation in an open letter Sunday. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Seven of interior minister Mart Helme's (EKRE) predecessors issued a statement Sunday calling for his resignation, following his demand on Thursday that Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher resign, a call which was overruled by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) on Friday.

The open letter to the media reads: "We are appealing to you in concern about our Estonian state. Your words and actions and those of your son and fellow minister, finance minister Martin Helme, over the last few days have been damaging to Estonia's image and security. You have crossed a red line in Estonia."

The seven signatories, whose periods in office span much of Estonia's political history since independence in 1991, are Hanno Pevkur (Reform), Kalle Laanet (Reform), Margus Leivo, Märt Rask, Ain Seppik (Reform), Olari Taal and Helme's immediate predecessor in the post, Katri Räik (SDE).

Leivo, Rask and Taal are not members of any party at present, though Rask was a Reform Party member when in office. Seppik was a Centre Party member when in office.

"Forcing the hand of the head of the PPA using techniques more reminiscent of 1930s Germany or of Soviet security organs is inappropriate," the statement continued.

"This is what Martin Helme, who performed your duties on your behalf last week, did in writing, though he had been told not to speak to him [Vaher]," the open letter added.

Martin Helme, while being finance minister, reportedly submitted resignation papers to Vaher on Thursday while the interior minister was still on vacation. These papers lacked an authentic signature, though they appeared in printout as if the electronic version of the document had been signed. Martin Helme later apologized for overstepping his powers in getting involved in interior ministry affairs. Mart Helme returned from vacation Thursday afternoon and reiterated the call for Vaher, who the Helmes said had given false information regarding potential redundancies at the PPA.

"These techniques, appropriate for a repressive power, have no place in Estonia. Unfortunately, you did not condemn this behavior either. On the contrary, you justified and defended it," the former interior ministers' note continues.

"Be a statesman and step down as Minister of the Interior, in order to send a clear message that the behavior described above is not a new norm in Estonia. We unequivocally condemn your and your close party companions' behavior. Estonia deserves a statesman," the open letter concluded.

EKRE MEP Jaak Madison had also added his voice to calls for Vaher to step down; those from other parties who spoke out on the issue, including the prime minister, did so in support of Vaher, though Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder was more equivocal and hinted at underlying issues regarding Vaher's tenure at the PPA.

The Reform Party said Saturday it would try to get a no-confidence motion in Jüri Ratas government put to parliament ahead of its return after the summer recess.

Media reports Friday stated President Kersti Kaljulaid sought a meeting with Ratas, though no date or time for this has been announced.

No international media reports on the issue have been mentioned in the Estonian media to date. Protecting Estonia's image abroad has been used as an argument against the current coalition and the involvement of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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