Kaja Kallas: Ratas needs to prove he is not hostage to EKRE
Responding to calls to apologize over comments she made about Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas rejects claims she had accused Ratas of treason.
Speaking on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera Tuesday evening, Kallas said that Ratas would more likely sell Estonia up the river, if it meant holding on to power. This prompted a backlash from social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Centre) and Centre's Riigikogu grouping chair Kersti Sarapuu, to apologize, having effectively accused the prime minister of treason.
However, Kallas rejected, this as hyperbole, before going on to enumerate a by-numbers list of what she sees as Centre's coalition with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) since it came into office in late April.
"This is drama added by Jüri Ratas himself, to draw attention away from the scandal of the Minister of Rural Affairs and attacks by the Minister of the Interior on the prosecutor's office," Kallas wrote on her personal blog (link in Estonian) on Wednesday.
Ratas himself referred to Kallas words as an attack on Estonia's reputation, at prime minister's question time Wednesday.
Rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE) is the subject of a Ratas-launched enquiry into goings on at his ministry, following conflict of interest claims around an adviser Järvik had hired, and who stepped down Friday.
"He [Ratas] has surely shown via his actions that the seat of prime minister is more important to him than any principle, values or voter promises," she went on, citing the pre-election promise of protecting the Estonian pensions system, and his views on pharmacy reform, as examples.
"Whereas before, Jüri Ratas supported pharmacy reform, following the elections, he has done an about turn due to the value to party sponsors. And certainly all of this to continue as prime minister," she added.
Pharmacy reform, the baby of the social affairs ministry, would have involved the sector being placed into the hands of independent pharmacists, primarily. However, lobby groups representing the large pharmacy chains have caused its progress to founder.
Kallas also noted in her blog post that that while Ratas words might have stated that attacking minorities, insulting groups of people, and lying, was unacceptable, his actions painted a different picture.
"If all his ministers were to do this, he'd let them have at it, as that's the only way he can continue to be prime minister," Kallas wrote.
"Just as a reminder, EKRE ministers have also attacked gynecologists, women, scientists, teachers, minorities, etc. during their tenure [in office]," she continued.
"The singing revolution held so dear to the Estonian people has been traduced, but Jüri Ratas will not do anything, because the attacker is the very man who guarantees Jüri Ratas to continue as prime minister," she added, referring to interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE), who in July referred to the singing revolution – the events of the late 1980s and early 1990s which led to Estonian independence – as "mass hysteria".
Kallas also noted an abortive coup against police chief Elmar Vaher launched by Mart Helme in late August, and his and others' questioning of the independence of the prosecutor's office.
"When ministers go on lying, then these lies come to light; when lying has become part of the day-to-day for government members, then Jüri Ratas will let a minister go only when it suits EKRE's leadership, as they are the ones guaranteeing his continuing as prime minister," she added.
On the latest controversy surrounding Järvik, Kallas said that while Ratas has apprised himself of how critical the situation is, EKRE have given him an ultimatum, namely that firing Järvik would lead to the collapse of his position as prime minister, adding that the latter had been frantically trying to find ways to portray Järvik as unblemished.
"Since this is the only way he can remain prime minister for a few more days/weeks/months: That is how he can give answers to all the questions which [his] commission is investigating [into Järvik] at [prime minister's] question time."
Kallas, who has commenced no-confidence vote proceedings against Mart Järvik, signed-off by throwing down a gauntlet of sorts: If Ratas could prove by or on Wednesday that he was not any kind of hostage to EKRE ultimata, she would accept this and retract her words – presumably referring to the earlier statements on Aktuaalne kaamera.
"On this, he doesn't have to do anything more than dismiss the rural affairs minister, who has been dishonest and corrupt. This would be a step that would prove Jüri ratas stands for Estonia's interests, and has principles and values which exceed in importance those of the prime ministerial role," she said.
Kaja Kallas' party received the largest number of seats in the March general election, only for the Centre Party to go off into negotiations with EKRE and Isamaa, emerging with a coalition agreement a few weeks' later. Reform and the other opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) had too few seats (at the time 44) between them to form their own coalition at the 101-seat Riigikogu.
Editor: Andrew Whyte