At the congress, the mood in the Center Party became clear that cooperation with Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas’ Reform Party in its current form is most likely out of the question. At the same time, invited representatives of the other political parties in the Riigikogu all expressed readiness to cooperate with the Center Party in the future.
A statement submitted to Saturday’s Center Party congress calls for a replacement of the current Reform Party-led government of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas. “We support the motion of no confidence against the prime minister, and setting up a new government that is more capable and cares for people,” the statement read.
It was the Center Party’s goal to readjust Estonia’s economic course, it said further, and to develop a European civil society in this country. While the statement acknowledged that the Reform Party has declared the same goals, it criticized the ruling coalition sharply. “Unfortunately the prime minister’s words and actions differ from each other, and due to the helpless economic and tax policy of the government of Taavi Rõivas, Estonia has substantially strayed from these goals.”
Other criticism includes ignoring the recent state real estate report of the National Audit Office, excise duty hikes based on unreal forecasts, stalling with electing Estonia’s representative to the European Court of Auditors, and focusing only on merging local municipalities in putting administrative reform into practice.
Ratas hints Center not ready to work with Reform Party in its current state
Jüri Ratas, who is running for chairman of the Center Party, affirmed that while he would be ready for cooperation with other political forces if he was elected chairman, a party who was not willing to let go of the present tax system and refused to change would definitely not be a suitable partner.
“It is clear that the Center Party wouldn’t join a government or coalition that wants to continue with the standstill, that continues with the principle that some ideas or tax ideas in the economy are here to stay and that we cannot look at them more broadly. This party would not join such a coalition,” Ratas told BNS at the congress on Saturday afternoon.
Ratas said after the speeches at the congress that there were no differences in world-views between party members. But a speech of a chairman candidate should mainly be focused on the future, not the past, he added.
Ratas stressed that whoever was elected chairman or board member on Saturday had to be serious about the role and contribute to the party.
Junior coalition partners ready to work with Center
According to member of the Social Democratic Party’s leadership, MP Helmen Kütt, they are ready to work with the Center Party. Kütt said that the role of the Center Party in building Estonia and working toward life in Estonia improving should not be underestimated.
In a speech at the congress, Kütt stressed that the Center Party and SDE had many common elements in their world-views. She pointed out that they shared the responsibility of power in Tartu as well as Viljandi.
“We are ready to work together, and I believe that it would be very productive,” Kütt said.
She added that the Center Party was the party that contributed the most to integration in Estonia, and that it had worked towards everybody having a good life in this country.
Deputy chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), Kaia Iva, said at the congress that new doors were opening for political cooperation. “I don’t think that any major changes will take place next week, but new doors have opened as well as opportunities for less confrontational politics,” Iva said.
According to Iva, another reason for hope is that the most important issue in Estonia is the country’s security. For that, the unity of society was necessary, not just 2% of GDP being spent on defense or good cooperation with allies.
“I hope that today’s elections will push the Center Party to be more innovative and democratic, and cooperate well with all political forces,” she added.
Guest speech by EKRE representative Jaak Madison
A member of the board of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), Jaak Madison, expressed hope that EKRE and the Center Party would soon get the opportunity to rule Estonia together.
According to Madison, EKRE has so far cooperated successfully with the Center Party, mainly because both parties are in the opposition at the moment. “At the same time it has been a productive time getting to know each other and understanding how much we have in common, and how much we care about the Estonian people,” Madison said.
Madison said that it was the parties’ common interest that Estonia becomes wealthier, more developed, and a country with high population growth. He added that it was natural that parties developed, and that in the course of this development there could occur diverging opinions and crises.
Free Party also hopes to cooperate with Center Party
Member of the leadership of the Free Party, Jaanus Ojangu, said at the congress on Saturday that he was hopeful that the two parties could soon cooperate.
“I’m glad to see a changing Center Party. I hope that today marks another opportunity to reach a turning point to end the confrontation, so we can cooperate,” Ojangu said.
According to Ojangu, several new doors will open, but the Free Party’s hope is that an old, bad door would be closed. He referred to the Center Party’s cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party, United Russia. “We hope that our cooperation won’t get stuck because of such things,” he added.
Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn