Social Democratic Party chairman Sven Mikser told uudised.err.ee's Aleksander Krjukov in an interview that the party is a force for national reconciliation and hopes to end its five-year stint in Parliament's opposition shortly.
What was 2013 like for the Social Democratic Party?
It was difficult and full of work. The spirit of the year was determined by preparations for the elections. If we look at our organization's development, we made decent progress. Going by the election results, we have a faction in the city council of every major town. In seven county seats we are in the coalition and countrywide we have the greatest representation in municipal councils than we have ever had. There are places in larger towns and cities where the result fell short of expectations.
What were the most serious topics you had to deal with?
One large one initiated by the Social Democrats and which has become much more debatable in society is the issue of caregiving for family members. We have been able to make minor adjustments and fixes in how study allowances are organized in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, as well as guarantees for parents of disabled children.
We have certainly been a rather effective opposition party when it comes to applying pressure on the government. Topics related to demographic problems and general socioeconomic well-being are among the most important for the Social Democrats.
It's often said that the Social Democrats weren't able to make maximum use of their potential in getting out the ethnic Russian vote in local elections.
Our goal is undoubtedly to overcome politics that casts national groups as opposites. Two parties in Tallinn very clearly made it their election strategy to play on the opposite camps. And this made it harder for the reconciliation-oriented forces. So it's not just an omission on our part. In Tallinn, the Social Democrats failed to get as large a share of the Russian vote because Center and IRL raised the topic from an antagonistic angle and thus a significant part of the Russian voters in Tallinn aligned themselves with Center. While in Ida-Viru County, where it wasn't possible to adopt such an antagonistic stance, our message worked pretty well.
Were the Russian votes lost due to your participation ideologically speaking, in an anti-Center Party tripartite coalition, as it were?
No, and we didn't take part in any such coalition. Our goal was to ease the fears of Tallinn voters. Our goal was to tell people who had previously voted Center: fear not, your interests will be defended by the new city authorities, should Center be unseated. But in a situation where two sides adopted an antagonistic strategy, our message was perceived as weak.
How ready are you to make compromises if you have to form a coalition with some right-wing party? What will you tell your voters who have doubts about Social Democrat support, feeling that they are the perpetual opposition party?
The Social Dems won the local elections in Võru, Valga, Paide, Viljandi, Rakvere, Tartu and Kuressaare. As to the central government, we have been in the opposition since 2009. No opposition lasts forever. I think the point of democracy is that rulers are used up and then new ideas and solutions arrive. Our goal is to come out of the opposition in the 2015 elections.
The people who voted for us in 2011 could also presume that we have to wait four years before we get into power. The prospect of a government being toppled in the middle of a parliamentary session, well, it happens, but it is more likely with the four parties in Estonia's parliament that the coalition will last until the end of the four-year term.
Would it be hard for the Social Dems to be in the ruling coalition in Estonia?
With the Center Party, we are disturbed by ethical problems, with Reform, ethical and world view problems. With IRL the biggest obstacle to cooperation is that there are many small parties within one party. It is more like an election coalition that consists of groups or even individuals with wide-ranging views and cultures. But if we look at what they have actually done in politics, the Social Democrats have plenty of criticism for what is going on in the economics minister and the education minister's area of government.
There will be no easy coalitions. I think that there is no such thing as easy coalitions anywhere. I would not rule out any possible coalitions, but we can't be just coalition "filler," which just does the bidding of other parties to get the key to some ministerial portfolio.