Saarts: Ligi Set Precedent for Reform Party ({{commentsTotal}})

Tõnis Saarts Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi is the first Reform Party minister to quit as a result of words, not deeds, says political scientist Tõnis Saarts.

“All previous Reform Party ministers who have had to step back have done so due to a failed political decision or problems in their ministries,” Saarts told on Sunday, adding that Rein Lang (culture), Maret Maripuu (social) and Signe Kivi (culture) are examples.

He said the strong pressure from the camp of the Social Democrats played a great role in the decision. “Social Democrats felt the support of the public and the media and decided not to retreat this time. The personality of Jürgen Ligi also played a role. He has been very direct and straightforward in both actions and words. When he felt this scandal was spiraling out of control and continuing would damage himself and the party, then he was left without any good options,” Saarts said.

Other Reform Party ministers, who are less vocal, would not have resigned, Saarts said, pointing to former justice minister Kristen Michal, who only stepped back a few months after a scandal broke in 2012 around an accusation from a former former Reform Party member that alleged that Michal had asked him to transfer cash of an unknown origin into the party's bank account. Michal denied the allegation all along, and was not criminally charged.

He said the main question now is on Ligi's successor. “It has been an important post for the Reform Party and in some ways, the party's mark of quality or brand.”

Saarts said the whole case shows the public has become less tolerant of political labeling and bad-mouthing. Former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip himself got away with similar outbursts only four or five years ago, he said.

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