Parties strike positions for elections, Reform Party offers 'liberal Nordic' idea (5)
It was a weekend of party congresses, where many of the country's main political forces unveiled the programs and candidates they will field at the March 1 general elections.
The main theme at the ruling Reform Party's plenary meeting at the Saku Suurhall arena could be summarized as "how to be Nordic, but without the social democracy."
"We want […] Estonia to be known as a new Nordic country. A country with a Nordic standard of living and security, but still leading the world in terms of individual liberty and economic freedom," Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas told delegates on Saturday.
Jürgen Ligi, the longtime minister of finance who stepped down earlier this year, struck a note of caution about the north, however. He was quoted on ETV as saying: "They have their own problems. Finland is definitely in a crisis in its development." Estonia, he said, should not "shackle wage rises with tax brackets like all others do."
Besides a contrasting approach to tax policy, the Reform Party has often sought to paint archrival Edgar Savisaar of the Center Party as pro-Kremlin, and the rhetoric remained sharp at the congress.
"[Social Democrat chairman] Sven Mikser told his party members this morning that Savisaar need not be feared. Of course not feared, but we shouldn't be naive," said Rõivas in his address. "Does one need little green men if they can be sneaked into government?"
At the Social Democratic congress, held earlier on Saturday, Mikser was critical of other parties, singling out the "fearmongering" taking place between Reform and Center.
In an interview with ETV after the congress, Mikser ruled out cooperation with Savisaar's Center Party, saying he had "seen Savisaar from too close." Mikser emphasized the Social Democrats' hopes to win the elections and form the next government.
ETV said that the Social Democrats are the party that is most vocal on gender equality. But while their candidates include 37 percent women, only one of the top candidates in each of the 12 districts is a woman - one of the two social affairs ministers, Helmen Kütt.
The Center Party council also convened on Saturday to approve its list of candidates. In the press, much was made of the fact that deputy chairman and Parliament's deputy speaker Jüri Ratas was placed in the last spot on the nationwide list. However, this will not mean much, as the nationwide list only comes into play for dividing up remaining compensation seats, and Ratas will probably be elected by then based on number of votes he gets.
Although the other opposition party, IRL, has not released its candidate list yet, this weekend it was the Free Party's turn. The party, formed largely by disgruntled IRL members, held its congress, released its candidate list and program, and promised to form a shadow government for next month. However, like other non-incumbent parties in Parliament, it is only polling at 1-2 percent of the popular vote.