• Mikhail Zakharov

The rise of the right-wing in Estonia: how does "teflon" Mart Helme still remain in the Estonian go

By Mikhail Zakharov

Recently, Mart Helme, Estonia’s Interior Minister and one of the leaders of the populist Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), claimed that Estonian gays could be better off in Sweden. His words have immediately aroused a wave of indignation, but it seems that being provocative is Helme’s conscious choice. More than likely, the politician will get away with it – and continue riding on the waves of scandals.

"Let them run to Sweden"

In 2021, Estonia is going to hold a referendum on the definition of marriage during the country’s municipal elections. The idea of the vote was proposed by nationalists and conservatives from EKRE, who want to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Estonian constitution. Today the law grants same-sex couples rights and responsibilities similar to a marriage between heterosexuals. However, the members of EKRE look unfavourably upon sexual minorities and hope to change the current legislation. [1]

In his recent long interview to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Mart Helme recalled that according to EKRE’s position, the law must state clearly and unambiguously that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. [2] The journalist then asked: "What, will gays run in and flood the Estonian nation?", Helme responded: "Let them run to Sweden. Everyone is there, everyone looks at them more politely" and added that he takes "a really unfriendly look" at them. This is not to say that it was an ineffable disclosure but, nonetheless, his words came as a bombshell.

Triggering indignation