Estonia's far-right interior minister resigns after questioning Biden's election win

Estonia's far-right interior minister resigns after questioning Biden's election win
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius November 9, 2020

Deputy chairman of the far-right Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Interior Minister Mart Helme announced on November 9 that he is resigning as minister, following an inappropriate and rude remark about Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 US presidential election. 

Helme, already a controversial figure for his outspoken attacks on other public figures, commented on the US election on a radio talk show: "the logic based on which the deep state operates is to smuggle in dirtbags, corrupt dirtbags that can be blackmailed".

"Joe Biden and [his son] Hunter Biden are corrupt characters," he added.

Helme’s son, Finance Minister Martin Helme, commented on the same show that the elections in the US were “rigged so plainly, boldly, and on a massive scale”.

Mart Helme made further statements over November 7-8, casting doubt about the transparency of the election and questioning Biden’s victory. The comments were condemned by top politicians including President Kersti Kaljulaid as damaging to Estonia’s relations with the US, a highly important ally. 

“Last night [November 8], looking at the slander and lies produced by the Estonian media, I decided to resign," Helme said. "The reason is very simple: no one can muzzle me," Helme added. "I say what I consider to be right, what concerns me.”

Exasperated, Kaljulaid decided on November 9 after hearing the remarks from the minister to convene the country’s Defence Council in the next few days to discuss the comments by Mart Helme and his son, Minister of Finance Martin Helme.

Opposition parties in the Estonian parliament have previously expressed no-confidence in both ministers representing the far-right political party.

"Mart Helme leaving [the government] is a step in the right direction. But Martin Helme, too, must be made accountable for his words," leader of the opposition Reform Party Kaja Kallas said on November 9.

Reform Party MP Marko Mihkelson submitted a motion of no-confidence in the finance minister, who is also the leader of EKRE, on November 9.

The parties submitting the motion opined that Martin Helme has purposefully caused harm to Estonia's security, international image and important allied relations.

"Martin Helme has called into question the reliability of Estonian elections and independence of Estonia's democratic institutions and has knowingly been sowing mistrust in the foundations of Estonia as a democratic state. Martin Helme has also disrupted the society and attacked various social groups," the motion reads.

"The minister of finance, Martin Helme, and minister of the interior, Mart Helme, in their declaration following the US presidential election severely attacked the democratic elections of the United States, Estonia's main security partner and ally. They attacked our most important ally's right to domestic political self-determination and the newly elected president himself. Mart and Martin Helme's unfounded accusations alleging election fraud in the United States and their personal attacks on president-elect Joseph R. Biden are unsubstantiated, immoral and completely inappropriate for members of the government. With this declaration, Mart and Martin Helme have caused extremely severe harm to Estonia's foreign and security policy interests," the opposition parties said.

Signatories to the motion said that by attacking Estonia's foreign policy course and the general principles of liberal democracy, both Helmes have undermined the reliability of Estonia as a democracy based on the rule of law in the eyes of its EU and Nato allies.