Social Democrats, Reform boycott prime minister during Question Time

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) speaking before the Riigikogu.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) speaking before the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The parliamentary groups of neither the Reform Party nor the Social Democratic Party (SDE) submitted a single question for Wednesday's Question Time with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre).

SDE chairman Indrek Saar confirmed to ERR that the Social Democrats had agreed with the Reform parliamentary group not to submit any questions to the prime minister.

"We have repeatedly seen as we have asked him questions that he essentially does not lead this government," Saar said. "So we will direct our questions to those who do."

Another concern was the prime minister's tone. "For another thing, Ratas has started using this patronizing style that is not acceptable among adults speaking with one another," he added.

Last November, while Ratas' first government was in office, the opposition likewise boycotted the head of government. In that case, the opposition consisted of Reform, the Free Party, and now-coalition member Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

"The prime minister cannot act like this," said EKRE chairman Mart Helme at the time. "The prime minister cannot adopt the stance of taunting MPs, taunting parliamentary groups and other parties. This is unacceptable."

Centre group chair asks sole question

Ratas was asked just one question during Wednesday's Question Time — by Centre parliamentary group chairwoman Kersti Sarapuu, about tax dogmas.

Former longtime MP and former President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) wrote on Facebook that until now, the understanding had existed regarding Question Time that MPs who do not belong to the government coalition must be given priority in submitting questions.

"Why? Two reasons," Nestor wrote. "The practical — a coalition MP has a hundred other opportunities to ask. The political — a question asked of a minister by an elected representative cannot be a trick show in which a supporter of the minister asks a question and the minister provides an expected response with the goal of promoting the party's political agenda."

The press service of the Riigikogu told ERR that it is the Board of the Riigikogu that determines the order of questions, and it has been customary for the prime minister to respond first; this time, there simply were no further questions.

At the beginning of Question Time, Reform MP Urve Tiidus asked a procedural question regarding whether best practices had been changed regarding preference being given to the opposition during Question Time.

President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) replied that it is also best practice to allow the prime minister to respond to questions first.

He noted that the Board of the Riigikogu had discussed the order of questions, and considered allowing Reform parliamentary group chairwoman Kaja Kallas to ask a question of Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) first, prior to the question addressed to the prime minister, but nonetheless decided that the prime minister would answer his question first.

Põlluaas also stressed that best practices do not rule out coalition MPs being  able to ask questions as well.

SDE member Jevgeni Ossinovski likewise found that Question Time is primarily an opposition-based format.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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