Reform Party chairman Hanno Pevkur writes an opinion piece—and finally answers the question which party will be the rightful heir to the populist opposition of Center's Savisaar days.
The coalition parties were behaving like Winnie-the-Pooh digging into a beehive, gobbling up as much as they could without thinking about the future, chairman of the opposition Reform Party, Hanno Pevkur, wrote in an opinion piece published in daily Päevaleht.
The “leftist government” after its first 100 days called for this comparison involving the popular children’s book, Pevkur wrote. They acted like the bear who knew that he couldn’t possibly grab all the honey, and that he might get stung as well, but went for as much as he could grab nonetheless.
To the Center Party, the Social Democrats, and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), it didn’t matter what tomorrow would bring. The government’s careless decisions and senseless squandering was proof for that. But the present situation included one more thing: straight-out lies.
Spitting on the rule of law
At the end of 2016, right after the change of government, they had demonstrated that the Constitution and the rule of law meant nothing to them, Pevkur wrote. The exceptional hike in excise duties and throwing out the previous Reform Party government’s social tax cuts were just two examples of how the coalition was spitting on the principles of a state governed by the rule of law.
The government was obviously of the opinion that since they had the majority in parliament, the opinions of others no longer counted. The Chancellor of Justice’s assessment that the excise hike had been unconstitutional, for example, had gone unheeded, Pevkur suggested—adding that as the opposition, the Reform Party had at least been able to stave off “a few great idiocies” like a car tax, or abolishing joint tax declarations for married couples. (Editor's comment: both ideas that in fact were never put to a vote in parliament.)
This meant that not only did the government tend to forget about the principle of justified expectation, but also about constitutional values, the chairman wrote.
Betraying the principles of Estonian citizenship
Also defended by that same constitution was the Estonian language, Pevkur added, saying that to him it seemed that the Center Party was “playing Russian roulette” in the question of language, hoping to score with the Russian voters.
But this hope had to be naive, the chairman continued, recommending to the Center Party to choose which audience they wanted to go on talking to, and which promises to keep. This was also the right place to bring up the government’s prancing around in the matter of citizenship. Make all the stateless Estonian citizens, or don’t? Pevkur added that he supposed the coalition partners would like clarification what the Center Party really thought about it all.
“Is playing around with citizenship supposed to be a fake promise for the elections, or does the Center Party really want to throw Estonia’s citizenship principles in the garbage?”, Pevkur asked.
Liar, liar, pants on fire
Pevkur also insisted in his piece that Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) lied when she said she had not given an interview to Kremlin-minded news portal Sputnik. Reps had got “caught”, and such blunt lying was not acceptable from a minister. The fact that she had lied would remain a fact, Pevkur observed, and this couldn’t be overturned or belittled or reduced to a simple slip, which it had not been. And how could anyone believe the minister of education anymore and assume that she wasn’t lying?
Bottom line: Meet the new populist opposition
From here on in, the Reform Party chairman’s opinion piece continues on the same line, condemning former and very short-time Minister of Rural Affairs Martin Repinski’s failure to come clean about his business, who despite hopes expressed by the farmers’ unions to the contrary found himself forced to resign.
The opinion piece eventually ends in a final rant about the government’s “spending mania”, including what Pevkur calls the “deportation of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences to Narva”, and the Social Democrats’ apparent need to regulate and forbid everything.
There is one noteworthy turn of phrase here, namely where Pevkur asks if the government’s new motto was to “use others’ money till you drop”—treating this as established fact right after, when adding that it would “pay to keep in mind here” that this wasn’t about others’ money, but taxpayers’ money. And after that, following all this with a last melodramatic question: Perhaps the government does consider Estonians to be “others”, the money of whom they can squander to further their own interests?
One of the go-to conclusions of the Center Party’s opponents during the time it was run by Savisaar, and while it played the role of the biggest and loudest opposition force, was that they were populists. It would seem that the Reform Party under Hanno Pevkur is more than fit to replace Center in that role.
Editor: Aili Vahtla