Interior minister: Kingo was not given a day of respite

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE).
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chair and interior minister Mart Helme said that the resignation of Kert Kingo as IT and foreign trade minister on Wednesday evening was the result of a unanimous decision by the party, which had convened a meeting after revelations that Kingo, also of EKRE, had lied to the Riigikogu about the appointment of an adviser. He added that she had faced constant media pressure throughout her five-and-a-half-month tenure in the role.

Helme told ERR current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera that he called Kingo as soon as he read the news, telling her she could no longer continue in the post.

"I would also point out, dear journalists, that practically from the first day Kert Kingo took office, she has not been given a day's rest," said Helme.

"She has always been under attack, has always had to comment on whether she speaks or does not speak English, whether she will travel abroad or not, whether she is working or not, or whether she is lying or not," Helme added. "I think she was relieved to say: 'I can't work like that any more."

When asked whether he knew before Wednesday that Kingo and Väli had actually signed a job contract, Helme said that the question was no longer relevant.

Kingo told the Riigikogu on Monday that she had never met with nor discussed the appointment of Jakko Väli as her advisor, after being questioned on the issue by opposition MPs.

However, spokesperson for the economic affairs ministry Rasmus Ruuda told ERR Wednesday that a contract for Väli had been signed by him and Kert Kingo, as well as practical arrangements for starting work having been carried out.

A potential minister's adviser could not take on the post without the latter's consent.

Väli, a Green Party member at the time, had announced on his social media account last week that he and Kingo together would be unstoppable. A media furore soon ensued in which Väli referred to critics as "bastards" and doubled down on his claims.

After Kingo denied all contact with Väli to the Riigikogu on Monday, Väli also authored an offensive social media post about a former politician, Evelyn Sepp, and was expelled from the Green Party on Tuesday.

Following the revelations that Väli had indeed been hired as an adviser to Kingo, opposition leaders Indrek Saar (SDE) and Kaja Kallas, as well as independent MP Raimond Kaljulaid, called for Kingo's resignation, on Wednesday afternoon.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) received the resignation Wednesday afternoon, which he forwarded electronically to President Kersti Kaljulaid, who is currently out of the country.

Ratas acknowledged that while the decision to resign was a tough one for Kingo to make, he couldn't see how she or the coalition could continue without it.

Kingo was appointed in early May following the resignation of another, even more short-lived foreign trade and IT minister, Marti Kuusik, who had been in office for one day but faced media allegations of domestic violence. At the time, the newly-formed coalition government had faced calls for Kuusik's replacement to be a woman.

She faced criticism for, among other things, shunning foreign travel in a role which requires it, refusing to use English as a working language in international meetings, using a Huawei smartphone despite security concerns, and dodging government press conferences.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright

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