We, 31.05.2023

Another gov. crisis looms as Helmes say US presidential elections falsified and Biden corrupt

Meinhard Pulk
, reporter
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Martin Helme, Mart Helme and Jüri Ratas.
Martin Helme, Mart Helme and Jüri Ratas. Photo: Remo Tõnismäe

A new government crisis is on the horizon just a few weeks after the coalition put to bed the previous one following statements by Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) chair, Minister of Finance Martin Helme and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme, his father, according to which U.S. presidential election results were falsified and Joe Biden is a corrupt character.

The consequences of the statements made by father and son Helme will likely be the most serious they have been in the government’s 18 months in office as security policy has now been brought into play.

Martin Helme said during the party’s council meeting on Saturday that the U.S. presidential election would see widespread voter fraud and mentioned similarities with Belarus. This sparked a reaction from Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) who suggested Helme cool his jets. “I believe that the fewer statements we make regarding either side, the more rational it is,” the foreign minister said.

Undermining national security

The EKRE ministers continued in the same vein on Sunday. Mart Helme referred to U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden as corrupt. “The logic based on which the deep state operates is to smuggle in dirtbags, corrupt dirtbags that can be blackmailed. Joe Biden and Hunter Biden are corrupt characters,” the interior minister said. Helme also presented as a fact that elections have not been fair in Estonia either, drawing an equals sign between mail-in ballots in USA and electronic voting in Estonia.

Helme’s statement was widely construed as a threat to national security. “The American people will elect their president without help from our ministers, while the Estonian government must stand for allied relations and security. Unfortunately, two members of the government have today sent a signal that this allied relationship is not a value for them,” President Kersti Kaljulaid said, adding that she will be convening Estonia’s security council in the coming days.

Former foreign minister, MEP Urmas Paet (Reform Party) also warned against critical consequences of the Helme quotes. “It is an obvious goal for some members of the government to destroy Estonia’s relationship with key allies. While the rest of the government just looks on. The words of ministers have consequences and they are for the entire country in this case. Provided the PM and other members of the government belonging to the Center Party and Isamaa allow these [EKRE] ministers to remain a part of the government,” Paet said.

Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) described what Helme said about Biden as a grievous judgment, while Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said that Estonians should have fewer things to say about U.S. elections in general. “It sometimes seems to me that Estonian politicians and journalists are deeply concerned for U.S. democracy, while I am not. Whether Biden or Trump, what matters is for Estonia to maintain an excellent relationship and cooperation with USA and its official policy. America is our greatest security ally and remain such irrespective of who is serving as president.”

Another government crisis?

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that the statements by the Helmes cannot be taken seriously and described them as “absurd.” He described inflammatory rhetoric aimed against a key ally as extremely irresponsible. “Members of the Estonian government must be able to keep their heads when commenting on the domestic policy of major allies. Mart and Martin Helme must cease undermining Estonia-U.S. relations immediately,” the PM said.

The Tre Raadio show also merited a sharp reaction from Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). “It is crazy talk that does not characterize Estonia’s official position for a second.” Reinsalu suggested his fellow ministers address problems in Estonia and refrain from running the United States. “The U.S. can handle its affairs without rowdy meddling on our part,” the foreign minister said on social media.

Chairman of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa (Center) was also very critical when he described the statements as yet another setback for the coalition that the Center Party Riigikogu faction will discuss on Monday.

Eesmaa said it is difficult to forecast the statements’ effect on Estonia-U.S. relations. “The fact that Estonia is so small might work to our advantage here – perhaps it will be missed in the new situation. In the end, Washington cares about the position of the government, president and the Riigikogu that is far removed from what these EKRE ministers have said.”

However, the scandal has gone beyond Estonia and been picked up by the Washington Post.

Are we in another crisis? Deputy chairman of the Center Party Jaanus Karilaid said that the party is used to crisis management.

“The prime minister’s word is worth ten times as much and looking at activities being pursued by the Ministry of Defense, I dare say our security is safer than ever. However, we are forced to admit that not all members of the government are able to remain courteous.”

Karilaid added that the marriage of the coalition would not be discussed on Father’s Day. “The workweek is coming and we’ll take it from there.”

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