Free Party interested in joining coalition, potentially important factor in next government’s work (1)

Free Party chairman Andres Herkel. (Siim Lõvi/ ERR)
11/15/2016 2:12 PM
Category: News

The Free Party is interested in being a part of the next government coalition. Though no agreement was reached with the Center Party, the Social Democrats, and IRL, another meeting is set for Thursday.

Free Party chairman Andres Herkel said to ERR on Tuesday that the three negotiating parties asked for more time to decide on the participation of the Free Party in the next government.

“We want to have clarity whether we’ll be in the coalition or in the opposition,” Herkel said, adding that in his meeting with the other parties no major obstacles had come up. He also said that the Free Party agreed with the potential coalition’s economic and tax policy plans, of course with the reservation that it all needed to work out financially as well.

They had also discussed extending Estonia’s democracy, and the Free Party’s demands to reduce the financial support parties receive from the state. There was common ground in those matters as well, Herkel said.

The party’s leadership met on Thursday last week to discuss their potential participation in coalition talks, and decided that they were interested. “The Free Party is very ready for it, if we’re included in these negotiations, of course,” MP Andres Ammas said then.

Free Party could be included to compensate for Center Party’s potential weaknesses

If the current coalition negotiations should produce Estonia’s next government, and if this government should then be run by Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas, keeping it together would likely not be the easiest of tasks.

With the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), the coalition would include a party that so far has followed a neo-conservative course in matters of integration and social policy as well as taxation. If IRL should at any time decide to leave the coalition, Ratas would lose his majority in the Riigikogu.

A similar danger exists within his own parliamentary group. If those Center Party MPs belonging to the party wings close to former chairman Edgar Savisaar, or those close to MEP Yana Toom, decide not to pull along in Riigikogu votes, the government would need additional help — which could come in the shape of another junior coalition partner, namely the Free Party.

Center Party: Not a matter of votes

The coalition of Center, Social Democrats, and IRL would have 56 votes in the Riigikogu, together with the Free Party they would have 64, though Ratas said on Tuesday that they weren’t considering including the Free Party because of their votes, but because they had good ideas. A broad coalition representing as many different parts of society as possible wasn’t a bad thing, Ratas said.

Chairman of the Social Democrats, Jevgeni Ossinovski, said on Tuesday that such a large coalition would be unusual. Typically the coalition partner whose votes were not needed to get a majority in parliament tended to feel superfluous, Ossinovski added.

Despite Ratas’ assurances that the Center Party’s parliamentary group is united, there are a few of its members who are saying that this isn’t quite the case, and that there are conflicts within the party that haven’t been addressed.

“Unfortunately this hasn’t healed yet, and at the moment we’re talking about ten MPs,” Center Party MP Peeter Ernits said on Tuesday. Ernits said that the coalition talks were run by Ratas and his closest circle. People who disagreed were treated like enemies.

“To say that our party of ten wants to spoil Jüri Ratas’ efforts, that isn’t true. We want to participate, we want to take on responsibility, and we still want that the talks go on,” Ernits added. The Center Party needed a strong position in the coming government.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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