Radio show: Kaja Kallas coalition's best asset

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas.
Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas is effectively the current coalition's guarantor, argues ERR's head of portals Urmet Kook.

Speaking on ERR's Vikerraadio on Saturday, Kook said that in both her actions – including failed no-confidence motions in interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) and rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE) – and her words, such as recent statements that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) would sell Estonia up the river if it meant clinging to power, will only serve to strengthen the coalition's resolve.

Speaking on the Rahva teenrid broadcast, Kook also said that the manner in which Kallas presented the latest no-confidence motion was unprofessional.

"They missed a pretty good opportunity to let the coalition marinade on this issue for a longer time," Kook said, referring to two controversies embroiling Järvik and implying Kallas had been too quick to act.

Furthermore, awareness that the no-confidence motion was even taking place was too low, with most MPs only hearing about it on Thursday morning, the very day it was held.

"This is symptomatic of this opposition," Kook said, noting that even during a controversy which broke in late August, when members of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) attempted a coup to remove Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher, Reform and the other opposition party, the Social Democrats (SDE), between them dropped the ball by pointing the finger both at Martin Helme, substituting for his father, interior minister Mart at the beginning of the scandal (in the case of SDE) and at Jüri Ratas (in the case of Reform).

"Both were strategically unprofessional statements of no-confidence," Kook said, adding that this also served to galvanize the Centre/EKRE/Isamaa coalition.

Presenter Mirko Ojakivi highlighted that EKRE itself seemed to be providing the substance; whereas Centre had to lose three of its ministers in its previous coalition with SDE and Isamaa, only one minister has had to step down so far (Kert Kingo).

Ojakivi also noted that the end of a ministerial position need not mean the end of a career (one of the Centre ministers that had to step down from the last coalition, Jaak Aab, is currently a minister).

Kook also noted the words of another Helme, Helle-Moonika, an MP and wife of Mart, who said that Isamaa and Centre should be thankful to EKRE as having the only ministers with any mettle. Following this logic, EKRE are actually decoys for ministers from the other two parties, rather than an attack on an EKRE minister being seen as an attack on the whole coalition.

Ojakivi opined that the recent enquiry into Mart Järvik's affairs, which will take 10 days to complete – a long time in Estonian politics – was simply to buy time for EKRE, adding that Järvik, who stands charged with misleading the public, acting against his own ministry, and other misdeeds, is not necessarily out of the woods yet.

"It may take more than a few weeks for Järvik to go, according to Kristen Michal (Reform)" Ojakivi noted.

"This commission is a way to defer decision-making to the uncertain future," said Kook, who remains convinced that any commission even with high-level civil servants is not politically influential. The question remains as to how EKRE and Ratas react if the commission does find that Järvik is at fault.

Aivar Hundimägi, also appearing on the show, thought that Jüri Ratas already more or less knows what conclusions the committee will reach.

Mirko Ojakivi sees Mart Järvik resigning himself, in the interests of the coalition, though he did not rule out an outcome where both minister and rural affairs ministry secretary-general Ilmar Lemetti, who Järvik wants to step down, remained in office.

As to Kaja Kallas' statements on Tuesday, which quickly prompted a backlash from leading Centre Party members as well as Ratas himself, Ojakivi felt that it was a gift for the prime minister, shifting focus from the embattled Järvik, to the Reform party leader, again, making Kallas one of the government's strongest guarantors.

As to Reform itself, since it remains the most popular party according to support surveys, there is no good reason to replace Kallas. However, this week's events had highlighted just how a Reform-Centre partnership would not work, exacerbated by Siim Kallas, Kaja's father, coming to her defense in saying that Kaja had been repeatedly slurred by Jüri Ratas, but without providing any concrete examples of this.

Urmet Kook felt that Reform is facing somewhat of a decline, which will bring it onto a par with Centre. The party has not found a voice or vision of its own while in opposition (which it has been for three years now-ed.), leaving the party bitter that it is no longer in office and leading to a drift of key members into the private sector (for instance Anne Sulling-ed.).

"If they can't get over this, it's going to be really hard for them to work in office with anyone," Kook said.

The original Vikerraadio broadcast (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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