Kallas interview reveals divide within Reform Party

Siim Kallas. (Siim Lõvi /ERR)
10/16/2016 5:25 PM
Source: BNS/ERR
Category: News

Former EU commissioner and presidential candidate Siim Kallas is openly critical of how his own Reform Party is run, and in an interview with business paper Äripäev published on Friday mulled over the possibility of founding a new party. The party reacted promptly.

Kallas is the founder and honorary chairman of Estonia’s ruling Reform Party. In his interview, he didn’t spell out any particular intention, but didn’t rule out the possibility of starting a new party either.

“It’s a complicated thing. I don’t want to say it’s entirely out of the question, but it’s too soon to say. It needs to be thought about,” Kallas told the paper when asked if he was thinking about establishing a new party.

Kallas added that for him, the key question was how the Reform Party would move on, and whether or not it would acknowledge great differences within the party. Much depended on the party’s attitude: If it moved forward pretending that the two opposing camps did not exist, that would not be acceptable, he said.

The interview made evident that the lost presidential election and the fiasco in the electoral college on Sept. 24 still is an issue. “One large group did not want me, that much is clear. And it was clear in the presidential election as well. Never before has it happened that a decision is simply ignored,” Kallas said, referring to Reform’s leadership’s support of him as its only candidate in the electoral college.

Secretary general: Kallas went against the party talking to Savisaar before presidential election

Secretary general of the Reform Party, Reimo Nebokat, said in response to Kallas’ criticism that the honorary chairman should consider taking a time-out.

“The party supported Siim Kallas in both the Riigikogu and the electoral college. Siim Kallas achieved the best result in both and thanked the party for its support. In view of this, it is strange to read his remarks today,” Nebokat said on Friday.

“I can humanly understand that Siim Kallas is embittered over not being elected president. Let’s put things the way they are: It would have been possible only in cooperation with the Edgar Savisaar-led Center Party,” Nebokat said, pointing out that the Reform Party had ruled out cooperating with Savisaar already back in 2007 after the Bronze Soldier Riot.

Kallas himself as well as former justice and culture minister Rein Lang as well as other members of the party had talks with Savisaar preceding the election. This was the main difference between Kallas and the rest of the party, Nebokat said: The party didn’t agree with that, and wouldn’t change its position.

“If Siim is displeased with it or disappointed with the decision of the Estonian people or electors, I’d certainly advise him to take time off, because bitterness can only lead to bad things and unfortunate remarks,” Nebokat said.

Rõivas: Kallas’ future in the party is up to him

Asked by ERR on Saturday, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) said that the party had found back to a united stance already before the presidential elections.

Rõivas said that though personally, he didn’t feel insulted by Kallas’ accusation that part of the Reform Party had turned against him in the electoral college, he could imagine that there were plenty of people in the party who did — after all, a lot of work had been done to support Kallas’ candidacy.

Asked if in such a case Kallas was the only one who hadn’t moved on, Rõivas said that there were likely a few other members who thought like Kallas, but that the lion’s share of the leadership and Reform’s parliamentary group were of the opinion that the party needed to continue together.

About Kallas’ future role in the party, the prime minister said that first of all he hoped Kallas could explain himself and his talk about starting a new party to Reform’s members. Also, Rõivas pointed out that Kallas was welcome to contribute to the party with his experience and advice, which would also apply if he decided to be a candidate in the next parliamentary elections again.

Whether or not Kallas would be part of this and work in such a team again was up to him, Rõivas said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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