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11 Jan, 2021 13:12

Estonian opposition MPs propose referendum on joining Russia in protest against constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage

Estonian opposition MPs propose referendum on joining Russia in protest against constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage

The Estonian prime minister has slammed suggestions from opposition MPs that a referendum should be held over the Baltic state's accession to Russia. The idea was proposed as a protest against a law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Writing on Facebook, centrist Prime Minister Juri Ratas explained that the country's constitution states “Estonia is an independent and sovereign democratic republic,” and condemned the proposal from center-left Reform Party MPs Urmas Kruuse, Ants Laaneots and Juri Jaanson.

“In my opinion, all Estonian political forces should unequivocally condemn this proposal,” he added.

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Ratas' statement follows a joke suggestion for a referendum question from the opposition: ‘Would it be better to live in the Republic of Estonia if the country was part of Russia?’

According to Kruuse, one of the authoring MPs, the proposal was put forward to protest the country's upcoming initiative to vote on whether marriage should be restricted to between just a man and woman. His Reform Party opposes the constitutional amendment, which is being championed by far-right Finance Minister Martin Helme, who is leader of the Conservative Party. The prime minister is in coalition with Helme.

The Reform MPs withdrew their joke question following the objections.

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In December, the referendum bill passed the first reading, but opposition parties have been trying to obstruct its procession through the second reading, and have submitted over 9,300 amendments. The other proposals include a referendum on withdrawal from NATO, the restoration of the Soviet Union and the banning of education in the Estonian language.

If passed, the ban on same-sex marriage could damage Estonia's reputation as a liberal post-Soviet republic. In 2019, the country's Centre and Conservative parties formed a ruling coalition, despite the center-left Reform Party winning the most votes. Late last year, Helme was named Estonia's most influential person. The politician is known for his anti-EU views, and has been accused of being xenophobic and racist, with “fascist neo-Nazi sympathies.”

In 2016, after a Swedish same-sex marriage was recognized by an Estonian court, Helme called for the judges’ “heads to roll.”

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