Estonia’s first female president Kersti Kaljulaid has been criticized by the country’s new interior minister for being an “emotionally upset” woman, after she walked out of the swearing-in ceremony of a Cabinet minister facing allegations of domestic violence. The accused minister resigned a day later.
Mart Helme, Minister of the Interior and Chairman of far-right Estonian Conservative People’s party, (EKRE), made the remark during a news conference on Thursday. Helme said the President acted like a woman incapable of keeping her emotions in check, according to Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), a publicly funded news outlet.
“An emotionally fired-up woman can allow herself that,” Helme told reporters. “But Kersti Kaljulaid isn’t just a woman, but rather the President of the Republic. She reads one article, is so emotionally upset as a woman that she immediately passes judgement on the fly.”
President Kaljulaid has yet to respond to the criticism of her. CNN reached out to her office but have not received a response.
Kaljulaid exited the chamber on Monday as Marti Kuusik was taking the oath of office, leaving him to salute an empty chair.
Kuusik was sworn in as IT and foreign trade minister shortly after the weekly investigative newspaper Eesti Ekspress first reported the allegations of domestic abuse against him. Police swiftly launched a criminal investigation into Kuusik and, on Tuesday, Kaljulaid said she had relieved the EKRE politician of his duties.
Kuusik, who has denied any wrongdoing, said in a statement that the accusations against him were “slanderous.”
“I am not someone who engages in violence,” Kuusik said after announcing Tuesday he would step down. “As of now, the decision of the prosecutor’s office to start criminal proceedings against me has been added to the terrifying media attack launched against me in recent days. In a situation like this it is not possible for me to carry out my work as minister. Furthermore, the rest of the government is not able to work normally.”
Helme called the saga that led to Kuusik’s ouster an “unconstitutional witch hunt,” expressing doubt over the President’s actions.
But Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, leader of Estonia’s Centre Party and the country’s new coalition government, said Kaljulaid was free to act as she wished.
“How the president wanted to act during the swearing-in of the government is her right,” he said, adding that, after being briefed by the Estonian police and Prosecutor’s Office, he was sure Kuusik’s resignation was the right call.