HELSINKI (AP) — The leader of Estonia’s far-right populist party, a key Cabinet member, has survived a vote of confidence at the country's Parliament despite uproar over his statements that the U.S. presidential elections were rigged and undemocratic — comments that were seen as jeopardizing Estonia's ties to key ally Washington.
Late Monday’s motion against Finance Minister Martin Helme who is the chairman of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, was supported by 46 lawmakers in the 101-seat Riigikogu, falling short of the 51 votes needed to pass.
The motion was initiated by opposition parties who said Helme and his father Mart Helme, EKRE’s vice chairman, had “caused extremely severe harm to Estonia’s foreign and security policy interests”
The remarks were made Sunday in an Estonian radio talk show which interviewed both Martin and Mart Helme, Estonia’s interior minister.
Among other things, Martin Helme said in the show that “there is no question that these (U.S. presidential) elections were falsified. There is no point in talking about democracy or rule of law in a situation where elections can be faked so plainly, boldly and on a massive scale.”
His father called U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter “corrupt characters,” without providing details or evidence, and said that U.S. President Donald Trump would eventually be declared winner of last week’s election.
On Monday, Mart Helme, 71, said he would resign from his ministerial post and resume work as a lawmaker.
Bordering Russia, Estonia is a small former Soviet republic and a NATO member that has based its security policy on being an active member of the military alliance and having Washington as its key ally.
Led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas’ left-leaning Center Party, Estonia’s current three-party, majority coalition government is made up of EKRE and the conservative Fatherland party.
In July, Martin Helme took over EKRE’s chairmanship from his father Mart. The nationalist EKRE, which runs on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union agenda, emerged as Estonia’s third biggest party in the March 2019 election.