Opposition parties keep pressure on prime minister over Järvik claims

Kaja Kallas and Jürgen Ligi in their alphabetically ordered seats at the Riigikogu.
Kaja Kallas and Jürgen Ligi in their alphabetically ordered seats at the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Opposition parties kept up the pressure on Prime Minister Jüri Ratas Wednesday evening, following Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas claims that he would sell Estonia up the river if it meant clinging to power.

Kallas made the comments, which were promptly rebutted by Centre members including social affairs minister Tanel Kiik, who also requested an apology, on Tuesday evening, speaking to ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera.

The Reform leader maintained the line on Wednesday, clarifying to Vikerraadio broadcast Uudis+ that she: "Didn't say that he had sold Estonia. That would never be allowed. But I just want him to state one principle, value or promise he has stuck by which would show his position as prime minister is under attack, but that is not going to happen now."

"Instead of acting offended at each of my statements or actions, Jüri Ratas could instead focus on how his coalition partner humiliates him almost on a daily basis," Kallas had also written in her blog Wednesday.

Veteran Reform MP adds voice

The Reform leader also found backing from veteran Reform MP Jürgen Ligi, who told ERR that he agreed with the claim, adding that: "there is no moral right to insist on Ratas being prime minister when he has failed on so many points."

"In that sense, this answer [to calls from Centre members that Kallas apologize], taken in isolation, was not brilliant, but when put in context, her idea was that Ratas had no moral right to continue as prime minister if he continues to do as he has done, and that was the point of the reply," Ligi added.

SDE MEP: Kallas is right

Social Democratic Party (SDE) MEP Sven Mikser also supported Kallas, saying that Ratas had effectively been feigning offense.

"Let's face it, in the public debate between politicians, what Kallas is saying is in fact a rather cautious use of words, though could be undoubtedly a cause for offense," Mikser wrote in his social media account Wednesday.

"However what is particularly sad is that Kallas is actually right, even if she did use metaphorical language or theoretical future scenarios. Let's face it - an open and progressive Estonia has already parachuted Ratas into the Prime Minister's chair via illiberal populists," he went on.

Kallas: Centre compromise not impossible

At the same time, Kaja Kallas did not close the door entirely on cooperation with Centre, should the political situation change.

"Looking at all the statements that [EKRE leaders] Mart and Martin Helme have taken towards Jüri Ratas, if he can work with them, he will eventually be able to survive my musings. Having said that I have considered the acts, and never have I wanted to attack him personally," Kallas said, according to ERR.

No-confidence motion in Järvik on its way

Reform also said that they were nearing the required number of signatures to bring a motion of no-confidence in Järvik, which was started at the end of last week and does not need to await the outcome of the inquiry into Järvik convened by the Prime Minister and chaired by the Secretary of State, which should be ready in 10 days.

"The State Chancellery is under the Prime Minister's authority, so his subordinates are beginning to look into the ethical choices of the government. All the [commission] can identify is what has already been identified by ministries and offices," Kallas continued, noting that it had a dispassionate role in determining the facts of the matter, not a deciding role on ethical issues.

"If we look at what the Ministry of Justice has noted, what the Ministry of Rural Affairs itself has noted, then what they can put together is 'factology'," she went on.

"The ethical choices can only be made by the government itself, only the prime minister," said Kallas.

Jürgen Ligi added that he thought the commission of enquiry was a stalling tactic.

"It is clear that what Jüri Ratas wanted to achieve with this committee is just to stretch things out. In ten days, the public's attention will surely have run its course," he said, adding that there is sufficient reason to doubt Järvik.

"It emerged from yesterday's interview (on ETV's Esimene stuudio-ed.) that he does not fully understand what position he has taken," Ligi told daily Postimees (link in Estonian).

Kaja Kallas also pointed out the role of the third coalition party, Isamaa.

"If one considers Ismaa's leader saying that Järvik must take political responsibility ... Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg has made it very clear how the rural affairs minister has favored private interests over public interests, so how could they vote against this motion of censure? I really don't see them looking at themselves in the mirror when things are clear," Kallas said.

Kallas ultimately promised to retract her words about Ratas on her blog, when Järvik steps down.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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