August 19, 2019 / 7:49 PM / a month ago

Estonia President says far-right minister unfit for job

FILE PHOTO: Estonia's Finance Minister Martin Helme of far-right EKRE Party reacts after the swearing-in of the incoming coalition government in Tallinn, Estonia April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Monday that Finance Minister Martin Helme, one of the leaders of the far-right EKRE party, was unfit to serve in the cabinet, citing Helme’s attempt to fire the head of the police force last week.

The president’s statement put pressure on Prime Minister Juri Ratas, although he has shown little sign of moving against his partner in a four-month-old coalition.

Helme, who is currently standing in as interior minister, tried to fire the police chief but failed as the post is appointed by the cabinet, not by the minister. Helme apologized to Ratas, saying he had acted too strongly and too fast.

“Even an attempt to do so is unacceptable, and the minister taking such steps is unfit to be a member of the government of the republic,” Kaljulaid said in a statement after meeting with Ratas on Monday evening.

“I also said this to the Prime Minister, but it is, of course, Parliament that decides what the composition of the Government is, in a parliamentary democracy,” she said.

The Reform Party - which won the March elections, but was left out of the cabinet when the Centre cut a deal with EKRE and the conservative Fatherland - has decided to call for a no-confidence vote in parliament.

It has also admitted, however, that the likelihood of success is limited as the coalition has a comfortable majority.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki, editing by Ed Osmond

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