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Estonia's interior minister resigns over 'corrupt character' remarks about Joe Biden

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FILE: Monday, March 4, 2019, the then Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme speaks at the headquarters after parliamentary election
FILE: Monday, March 4, 2019, the then Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme speaks at the headquarters after parliamentary election   -   Copyright  Tanel Meos/AP
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Estonia's far-right interior minister, Mart Helme, resigned Monday, a day after he called President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter "corrupt characters" without providing further details or evidence.

However his son Martin Helme, a key Cabinet member, has survived a vote of confidence at the country's Parliament.

"I decided to resign (when) looking at the slander and lies produced by the Estonian media,'' said Mart Helme, who remains a member of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE).

"I am tired, I did nothing yesterday that would endanger Estonia's security," he told public broadcaster ERR.

"I have not said anything that has not already been told by the American media, the American free media".

On Sunday, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas urged Helme and his son Martin to stop issuing unsubstantiated statements that he said damage Estonian and U.S. bilateral relations.

Ratas congratulated Biden and stressed the U.S. elections were "fair, free and transparent" in a Facebook post.

"Mart Helme should also know very well as Minister of the Interior, that without evidence it is unacceptable to press heavy charges."

"The members of the Estonian government must remain balanced by commenting on our biggest ally's internal politics."

Meanwhile, despite the uproar over his own comments, the younger Helme remains as Estonia's Finance minister.

A motion of no confidence by the opposition parties was supported by only 46 lawmakers, short of the 51 votes needed to pass.

Opponents had said Helme's remarks had jeopardised Tallin's ties to Washington and had "caused extremely severe harm to Estonia's foreign and security policy interests".

The populist EKRE, which Mart Helme co-founded, emerged from a March 2019 election as Estonia's third-largest party.

In July, his son Martin took over the EKRE chairmanship and both men have been embroiled in various political scandals in Estonia in past years due to their controversial public comments.

On Sunday, they appeared together on an Estonian radio talk show where Martin Helme said that there is "no question that these elections (in the United States) were falsified.''

"If this (US election result) goes through, then the Constitution will no longer apply in America,'' he added.

The comments are seen as highly embarrassing to Estonia, a small European Union and NATO member that is a staunch ally of Washington.

While most European leaders have congratulated Joe Biden, Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša attacked the media, tweeting that "the courts have not even begun to decide."

On Wednesday, Janša had handed Donald Trump victory in the election, despite no official result being declared.

Another Trump ally in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has also refrained from publically congratulating Joe Biden.