Estonia’s ruling coalition that has postponed solving the government crisis for the time being turned the opposition’s no-confidence vote against Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) into a demonstration of unity yesterday.
Chairman of opposition leader the Reform Party Kaja Kallas learned that the no-confidence vote she had presented to the Board of the Riigikogu at the beginning of yesterday’s parliament sitting would come up for a vote on the same day. This meant that Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik, who had dodged the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee sitting in the morning, still had to appear in front of MPs later in the day. “The PM told me I need to appear in front of the Riigikogu,” Järvik told MPs. The vote of no confidence failed with 43 votes to 51.
A two-hour session of questions saw MPs inquire about various scandals the minister is embroiled in. Järvik repeatedly said that he will not resign because he has done nothing wrong. “It is clear that I will not resign and that my party stands behind me. And the truth is I have conducted myself ethically – as opposed to what has been claimed in the media. I will not resign,” he stressed.
Järvik also told MPs that lying is not part of his values. “Lying is a conscious action, and I have done nothing of the sort.” The text of the no-confidence motion was signed by 44 MPs, including Raimond Kaljulaid who recently joined the Social Democratic Party (SDE). The only opposition delegate not to sign the motion was former SDE leader Jevgeni Ossinovski. He also did not sign a motion to express loss of confidence in PM Ratas in August, while later voting in favor of it in the Riigikogu. Ossinovski criticized the motion’s timing back in August. “I believe that expressing no confidence in Ratas at this time was not politically sensible,” he said.
One can only guess at his motivation this time. Results of the work being pursued by a Government Office investigative committee formed by Ratas should arrive in roughly one week’s time, which is when the coalition will have to decide the rural affairs minister’s fate.
“How can you, coalition delegates, vote against expressing no confidence in the minister, effectively demonstrating you trust Mart Järvik, in a situation where in ten days – when the committee headed by the state secretary has confirmed the exact same details we have discussed today, perhaps only in greater detail – you will have to admit that your moral compass is off and you made the wrong decision? You will not be able to change your decision then because this matter will not return to the Riigikogu,” Kaja Kallas said yesterday, trying to convince coalition MPs to vote for the motion.
Nevertheless, the opposition’s motion only got 43 votes, resulting in Mart Järvik staying in office. Fifty-one delegates of the coalition supported the minister, including Isamaa politicians who have been modest in voicing support for the EKRE minister so far.
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said the coalition wanted to demonstrate unity. “It was a clear signal that the coalition is working, and we do not have a government crisis,” Seeder explained, giving as an example the fact the government sent the pension reform bill to the Riigikogu yesterday. Seeder said the coalition knew how parties would vote.
Chair of the Isamaa Riigikogu group Priit Sibul had urged Järvik to take political responsibility a few days prior. “I do not believe Mart Järvik is the person because of whom the coalition should fall. I do not attach such significance to his person,” Sibul said yesterday.