Ansip Reaffirms Last-Term Pledge in ERR Interview (2)
Aleksander Krjukov of uudised.err.ee interviewed Prime Minister Andrus Ansip about Anno 2013 in Estonia and his party's plans for contesting the 2015 general election.
He also gave an interview to ETV, which we will publish excerpts from later in the day.
What was 2013 like for the Reform Party?
For Estonia as a whole, 2013 was quite a good year. The state's public finances have been in very good shape. It's almost as if people don't notice it anymore [because] they are so used to it. Our government sector debt burden is still the lowest in the EU, and tax receipts have been pretty good. More resources are coming into the budget than we had planned and this is a good foundation for next year's developments. Pensions and wages will grow next year. We also had fairly noteworthy reforms in Estonia as a whole: education reform, higher education reform and child allowances reform. These have been very extensive reforms and they will guide Estonian developments for many long years.
The last year was successful in the sense of many investments. In road construction, projects of the century have been completed - Ülemiste junction, which [Tallinn mayor Edgar] Savisaar managed to contaminate in the public's eyes with his Old Man of Ülemiste [a huge puppet built for the opening ceremony at a cost of many thousand euros] but it is still the project of the century. Building a divided four-lane highway on the Tallinn-Tartu road up to Kose has also been a big undertaking, and so has been the junction between the Tartu ring road and Võru highway in Tartu.
Construction of several major buildings is also under way. The Estonian National Museum is undoubtedly another project of the century and this year the beginning was made.
Estonia is also well defended. We still invest 2 percent of our GDP into defense. The efforts of the Estonian people have been instrumental, naturally, but I don't consider the Reform Party's efforts and leadership to be insignificant.
Unfortunately 2013 has been a year of quite a number of scandals for the Reform Party, which have meant a major decline in the party's ratings. How do you see the decline and how to turn the trend around?
But who hasn't had these scandals? Some scandals turned out to be insubstantial, while other scandals have had clear reasons. The main thing affecting the ratings is the protracted recession. If you look at the ratings for the ruling parties in our region, we can see the same trend in Estonia. No, I wouldn't overdramatize the rating percentages.
No doubt this excitement of getting things for free will pass and people will understand that there is a fair price that must be paid for everything. Only this will guarantee availability of services and investments in the future. No doubt there will also be a greater appreciation for political forces who stand up for such traditional values.
Support for the Reform Party during Siim Kallas's term as prime minister was 8-12 percent and the peak during elections was 19 percent, it never exceeded that level.
But after the response to the Bronze Night riots in 2007, support was around 40 percent…
That was a very extraordinary popularity level. It can't be taken very seriously. Being in the government is wearing. And when people start to see the outcome of the decisions - as painful as they might have been when they were made - they will start again supporting political forces who make responsible decisions. That is ordinary political logic.
So I would refrain from in any way inflating the importance of those rating figures. The Reform Party's support has been far less than it is now. Since 2005, the support has grown quite fast and current support is far better than it was in the period before 2005.
Was the resignation of Culture Minister Rein Lang a step that should increase support for Reform in the future?
I think that many people right now feel quite embarrassed about what they have incriminated Lang for. The people who laid unfounded and unjust accusations on his doorstep would benefit from a little remorse and apologizing.
Reform Party politicians have been criticized for a certain supercilious attitude. Has this changed?
I don't agree with the premise of the question. I'd let the people applying these labels comment on this.
What is your and the Reform Party's main message going into the next general elections? You've said that you won't continue past the next parliamentary elections, but is there an option of fielding a new candidate?
We go into 2015 standing up for our core values. We stand up for every individual's liberties, the free market economy and shipshape public finances. These are the core values that the Reform Party has always supported throughout its existence and it will do so in the future as well.
The Reform Party will definitely field a new prime minister candidate at the 2015 elections. I declared two years ago that I will not run for prime minister again. It's a natural replacement process. I am sure there are many people in the Reform Party who would make a good party chairman and prime minister.