Minister’s career cut short

Marti Kuusik. PHOTO: Tairo Lutter

The Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Marti Kuusik (48) resigned the day before yesterday amid allegations of domestic violence. The national conservatives will name a new candidate in the near future.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center Party) met with Prosecutor General Lavly Perling and Director of the Police and Border Guard Board Elmar Vaher in Stenbock House on the day of Kuusik’s resignation. Perling and Vaher gave Ratas a progress report on a criminal investigation into the allegations.

An article published on the day in weekly Eesti Ekspress cites five anonymous sources who claim Kuusik has physically abused his ex-wife. The meeting in Stenbock House was attended by Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) and EKRE leader and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme.

The president thanks the press

Not long after, Postimees learned that President Kersti Kaljulaid is making preparations for a statement and that Kuusik would lose his position in the government. Marti Kuusik was minister for foreign trade and information technology for a day, taking the peculiar record from Center’s Martin Repinski who lasted for 14 days.

Ratas handed the president Kuusik’s resignation in the presence of journalists. “Today’s (Tuesday – ed.) decision by the prime minister lends courage to all Estonian women who are afraid or concerned, to turn to the police,” Kaljulaid said, thanking the press for shedding light on suspicions and law enforcement for launching proceedings to get to the bottom of matters.

Was the minister’s resignation brought about by new circumstances or poor credibility of the suspect’s claims?

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas remained tight-lipped. “I’m convinced the police and the prosecution will do their job, and I have no right to comment on proceedings at this time,” the PM told the press in Kadriorg.

Immediately before the president’s statement, Kuusik sent a letter to the press to make known his resignation and once more declare his innocence.

“I’m not a violent person,” Kuusik wrote. “The ghastly media attack of the past few days has now been complemented by the prosecution’s decision to launch criminal proceedings. It is impossible for me to work as minister in such a situation. It is also impossible for the rest of the government to functional normally.”

Kuusik added he wants the government to be able to function and deliver his party from under fire. “I would also like to spare my family this psychological terror by the media. I surrender the post of minister not because allegations against me are true but so I can concentrate on defending myself and restoring my good name,” Kuusik wrote.

This is not the first scandal to involve Kuusik who was caught speeding with trace amounts of alcohol in his blood immediately after the March Riigikogu elections.

Kuusik was sworn in as minister on Monday afternoon by which time rumors of his violent streak had already been published in the media.

Marti Kuusik decided not to comment further for the duration of the criminal investigation.

EKRE leaders Mart and Martin Helme remained unavailable that night.

Helme’s criticism not aimed at Kuusik

Helme wrote a statement to the press the next day: “The witch hunt now on for Kuusik is a new landmark in political struggle in Estonia.”

“I deem it unacceptable that the presumption of innocence as one of the most important pillars of rule of law is being trampled underfoot in the name of political point-scoring,” he wrote.

The EKRE leader did not forget the president when he criticized Kaljulaid for leaving the Riigikogu hall in protest when it was Kuusik’s turn to be sworn in as minister on Monday. Helme added that as interior minister, he must “set about restoring constitutional order” that does not allow a person to be treated as guilty without a conviction in court.

The latter utterance sent more than one opposition politician rolling their eyes. The Reform Party’s former interior minister Hanno Pevkur commented on social media.

“Does the interior minister plan to stage a coup?” Pevkur asks in the post, adding that constitutional order is just fine.

Pevkur wrote he hopes that Helme will not meddle in the investigation as interior minister and allow law enforcement to do its job. “Otherwise, we find ourselves in a situation where the actions of a political minister themselves become a danger to constitutional order,” the Reform Party MP wrote.