Far-right Estonia minister sacked amid abuse probe
The IT and foreign trade minister, Marti Kuusik, was forced out while the police said they were investigating him for alleged domestic violence. He denied any wrongdoing.
At Kuusik’s swearing-in on Monday, Kaljulaid left the parliamentary chamber when he swore his oath, forcing him to salute an empty chair, according to Estonian broadcaster ERR.
“In addition to a horrible media attack against me, the prosecutor’s office decided to start a criminal investigation. In this situation, I cannot work as a minister. Also, the rest of the government cannot work normally,” the EKRE politician said.
Prime Minister Juri Ratas gave a similar explanation.
“In the current situation, the government could not really start its work and fulfil its programme. Hence [Kuusik] requested to leave his duties today,” Ratas announced.
Ratas said where domestic violence was concerned, there was no room for justification or doubt.
Kuusik was one of five EKRE ministers in the new administration.
Some Estonian journalists have expressed concern that EKRE is exerting political pressure on the media, as has been seen by populist parties in Poland and Hungary.
Party leader Mart Helme and his son, Martin, both made alleged white power gestures at their swearing-in ceremony on Monday.
The familiar “OK” diving gesture has spread rapidly among far-right and white nationalist groups, particularly in the US.
Its use began with online trolls as a joke and a “hidden meaning” to the media as a form of disinformation.
It spread and was used in court by the suspect in the Christchurch shootings who killed 49 people at two mosques.
EKRE’s anti-migrant campaign message helped it more than double its support at the March general election, especially in deprived rural areas.
It came third in the March general election, picking up 17.8 per cent of the vote and 19 seats. It joined an administration led by Juri Ratas’s Centre Party, entering government for the first time.
The party is the junior partner in the coalition, which agreed last month to a 36-page plan that includes some of the EKRE’s anti-migrant policies. It also pledges that Estonia will not take in any refugees as part of an EU-wide quota scheme.
Kersti Kaljulaid. Picture credit: Wikimedia