Coalition talks update: Rõivas makes early return, Mikser cites trust issues (3)
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas has made an early return from a European Council gathering saying there are more pressing matters in Estonia, such as the security situation and coalition talks.
“There are tasks which are better tackled in Estonia than from here. The topics which I had planned to actively take part in were concluded on Thursday,” Rõivas told ERR's Brussels correspondent Johannes Tralla.
“It means Estonia needs an active government and I, as the chairman of the party which prevailed at the elections, have the responsibility to do everything to form a functioning government for Estonia,” he said.
Commenting on the recent breakdown of the negotiations, Rõivas said part of the coalition debate has taken place through media. He said talks have not stopped but the sides need a little time to think things through.
Social Democrat Chairman Sven Mikser said one reason for the deadlock is lack of trust, adding that a letter sent by the Reform Party to the other three parties involved in the talks found its way to the media before he received it.
Rõivas recently sent a letter to the heads of the other three parties, outlining his party's vision for the coalition foundation. The foundations are state reform, helping families with children, tackling wage poverty, decreasing labor tax, increasing the birth rate and creating policies to compensate for the aging population and for emigration, halting outflow of people from rural areas, guaranteeing the security of Estonia and developing state defense, and increasing parliamentary democracy.
“The game of poker, where no one wants to show their cards and take the first step back from their positions, has also added to the slight deficit in trust,” Mikser said.
Both Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) and Andres Herkel (Free Party) said there are few answers to important questions at the current stage.
Martin Helme, board member of the Conservative People's Party, said the Reform Party's greatest fear is that they will be left in opposition. Kadri Simson (Center Party) said the truth is that the Reform Party cannot go on alone and needs allies.
Reform Party MP Kristen Michal said the hottest topic is private income tax, adding that for his party, increasing income tax is a non-starter and there is no point in bringing the topic up. The Free Party have campaigned for an increase in income tax.
Michal said the first stage of the talks, mapping everyone's positions, has been completed and fairly successfully at that.
3 versus 4
The past week has seen coalition talks grind to a halt. Some say that one of the main reasons for the breakdown are the high demands of the Free Party, which has the smallest number of MPs.
Experts have said both the Social Democrats (15 seats) and IRL (14 seats) would prefer a three-strong coalition with the Reform Party (30 seats). The three have enough seats to form a majority in the Parliament. The Reform Party would be happier with four coalition parties as it seeks a broader power base.
The presidential elections could also prove to be a key question. The next president will be elected by the Parliament in 2016. A successful candidate would need 68 of the 101 votes. With the Free Party's eight seats, the coalition would have 67, just one short.