Opposition leaders and MPs have called for the resignation of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) minister Kert Kingo, saying that she lied to the Riigikogu about the appointment of Jakko Väli, a former Green Party member expelled from the party this week, as her adviser.
Kingo told the house Monday that Väli had not been hired, but a Ministry of Economic Affairs spokesperson told ERR Wednesday that a contract and other arrangements had been made for Väli's employment. Kingo is minister for IT and foreign trade, and her role falls under the auspices of the economic affairs ministry.
Väli himself was kicked out of the Green Party after making allegedly offensive remarks about a former politician.
Kert Kingo told the Riigikogu on Monday that she had not met Jakko Väli or talked to him about his becoming her advisor.
"I have not met him, I will say straight away, I have not met him. I can say it very confidently. We have not met, we have not talked about this," Kingo told MP Hanno Pevkur (Reform), reiterating the line to MP Signe Riisalo (Reform), who asked if any officials from her ministry had tried to hire Väli, according to ERR's online news in Estonian. She responded similarly to questions from Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader Indrek Saar, and independent MP Raimond Kaljulaid.
However, Kingo in fact allegedly sent a request for an employment contract, which resulted in a contract for Väli being drawn up three days before Kingo made her remarks. Economic affairs minister spokesperson Rasmus Ruuda told ERR Wednesday that all the normal provisions for a new employee, including computer work station, payroll details etc. had been set up for Väli.
Political advisers to ministers are selected either by the minister or by their party, but in the latter case the consent of the minster is still required.
Väli himself, a former Tallinn TV presenter, announced on his own social media page on Oct. 18 that he was to take up the post.
Increasingly fractious social media and regular media discussions on the matter reportedly culminated in Väli responding by posting potentially offensive messages at least one of which was described in the media as obscene, obscene and degrading.
A day later, on Oct. 19, Kingo posted on her own social media page that Väli was not to take up the post, as confirmed by Rasmus Ruuda, who said that "Due to Jakko Väli's actions on 19.10.2019, the employment cotnract between jakko väli and kert kingo was terminated,".
Väli was expelled from the Green Party on Tuesday as a result of the latter.
Opposition MPs responses
Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader Indrek Saar said that: "It has just become clear that Kert Kingo lied to the Riigikogu on Monday in an official speech, denying any relationship with Jakko Väl. It has now become apparent that Kert Kingo signed an employment contract last week, in which he [Väli] was to be employed as an adviser."
Saar added that Kingo had also made misleading statements about her former adviser Viive Aasma, at a Riigikogu anti-corruption committee meeting on Oct. 14.
"There is no way you can trust a person who is lying to you directly," Indrek Saar said.
Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas said that Minister Kingo has repeatedly and systematically lied, meaning Kingo was not suitable for the role.
"Democracy is built on trust. That is why such a person is unfit for the ministry," Kallas said.
Both opposition parties along with independent MP Raimon Kaljulaid have said they expect Kingo to step down with immediate effect, adding they will prepare a motion of no-confidence in her if that is not the case. Reform have already issued a motion of no-confidence in the coalition of Jüri Ratas (Centre) and interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) since the lineup became fact at the end of April. Neither motion passed a Riigikogu vote.
Jakko Väli's posts
On Oct. 16, Jakko Väli posted on his social media page that: "Believe me: Kert Kingo will be the most popular minister in the country a year from now, and the most dreaded opposition to the opposition Jürgen Ligi-ites (a reference to Reform Party vice-chair and former minister Jürgen Ligi-ed.).
After the press furore about his possible employment as Kiongo's advisor, Väli posted that people were "Scared. Bastards. That we are too powerful a team with Kert. And we are – tremble, you bastards." He deelted the post soon after, it is reported.
Väli was then expelled from the Green Party on Tuesday, for making insulting posts about former politician Evelyn Sepp.
Prime minister asks for clarification
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has said he will be asking Kert Kingo for clarification on the matter.
"Certainly, things need to be clarified. It seems that it is in the interest of the Riigikogu. And then it will be necessary to give an answer," Ratas told the Riigikogu on Wednesday.
"I have been in contact with the minister and asked if it is true that Jakko Väli is not going to be her advisor, and he said yes, that is the case. I will definitely discuss these issues with her in the near future," Ratas said.
Kert Kingo's tenure as minister has been dogged by criticism from the opposition, principally revolving round her apparent unwillingness to travel overseas despite holding a portfolio which would require same. She has faced barrages of questions at the Riigikogu in recent times (government ministers in Estonia do not sit in the Riigikogu, but regularly appear for questioning by MPs).
Editor: Andrew Whyte