In this photo taken on Monday, April 29, 2019, Mart Helme, head of the Estonian Conservative People's Party, or EKRE, gestures while speaking during the presentation of the new government in Tallinn, Estonia. Mart Helme and his son, Finance Minister Martin Helme, were caught Monday by photographers at the ceremony making fingers gestures with their thumb and index finger to resemble a white supremacy sign. Mart Helme hasn't commented the gestures. (Liis Treimann/Aripaev via AP)

Estonia minister calls president 'emotionally heated woman'

May 02, 2019 - 11:06 am

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia's interior minister accused the Baltic country's news media Thursday of applying a double standard in their reporting on a government appointee who resigned after domestic violence allegations emerged in news reports.

Interior Minister Mart Helme, head of the nationalist Estonian Conservative People's Party, said news outlets took a different approach to reporting on the Cabinet appointee from his party than to earlier domestic violence cases involving a theater director and other prominent Estonians.

The EKRE member, Marti Kuusik, was sworn in as technology and foreign trade minister Monday along with the rest of Prime Minister Juri Ratas' new three-party Cabinet.

Kuusik stepped down the next day after police opened a probe based on what he called "slander" and "a terrifying media attack" against him.

In a sexist remark directed at Estonia's president Thursday, Helme criticized President Kersti Kaljulaid for leaving the swearing-in ceremony when Kuusik took the oath of office, telling reporters "an emotionally heated woman can afford to do that."

Kaljulaid returned to her seat when it was the next minister's turn. She attended the Cabinet ceremony wearing a sweater printed with "Sona on vaba," which is Estonian for "Speech is free."

The Estonian Conservative People's Party, led by Helme and his son, new Finance Minister Martin Helme, previously accused the news media of biased reporting on party affairs.

EKRE's strong rhetoric has divided Estonia since the party first entered parliament in 2015. The party has advocated abolishing legal recognition for same-sex civil unions, demanded changes to the country's abortion law and fiercely opposed European Union quotas for taking in asylum-seekers.

It emerged from the election with 17.8% of votes, becoming Estonia's third-largest party.

The party's role in governing Estonia was enhanced further Thursday when Mart Helme was appointed first deputy prime minister, which means he would lead the Cabinet during the prime minister's absence. A party member also is the current parliament speaker.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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