After an Internet rant in which he suggested that Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski's family background kept Ossinovski from understanding the implications of the Soviet occupation, Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi appears to be facing an uphill battle to hang on to his post.
Ligi apologized on Thursday but maintained he had not disparaged the Social Democratic minister's ethnic background. Nevertheless, he said his resignation was "on the table" as a topic.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who has himself often taken to social media in a less restrained mode, though never in such a vein, said on Facebook that a Cabinet member should never disparage others on the basis of their gender, nationality or origin.
He said the further actions of Ligi and of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, who is in Brussels, will determine the "trustworthiness of the executive branch."
Three of the four parties in Parliament, including the junior member of the coalition the Social Democrats, said Thursday that Ligi should resign. A possible vote of no confidence was being explored late Thursday.
The most quoted part of Ligi's paragraph-long rant on Facebook was that Ossinovski was "an immigrant's son from the pink party." He also said he was "rootless" and ignorant." The context was a spat over the degree to which the Soviet occupation was to blame for Estonia not being a Scandinavian-style social welfare county with enough cash for social services. The two had disagreed the night before on an ETV program, but the exchange there had been civil.
Ossinovski is one of the few senior politicians in post-restoration Estonia whose father or mother was a non-Estonian who came to the country during the Soviet occupation. Although he comments more frequently on matters of language and citizenship in some forums, his political views largely align with other Estonian colleagues.
Estonians themselves are sensitive to ethnic issues, as Russification policies orchestrated by Moscow have been a fixture of regimes already since the late 1800s. During the Soviet occupation, the percentage of Estonians fell from 88 percent to just 60 percent.