Opinion: EKRE looking for rural affairs minister's replacement

Toomas Sildam (left) and Anvar Samost.
Toomas Sildam (left) and Anvar Samost. Source: ERR

Rural affairs minister Mart Järvik's (EKRE) days in the role are numbered, as he simply isn't the right person for the job, according to senior ERR journalists Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam.

Speaking on politics discussion show Samost ja Sildam on ERR's Vikerraadio on Sunday, Anvar Samost said that while the tensions surrounding the current coalition may have peaked last Monday, in the more relaxed atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon, it could be concluded that the coalition will go on, but with a new rural affairs minister.

Järvik is currently the subject of a 10-day internal inquiry ordered by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) following two controversies surrounding an alleged conflict of interest case, and claims that he was aware of Listeria bacteria traced to a fish packing plant near Tallinn as much as two months earlier than he says.

He also faced down a no-confidence vote brought by Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas last week.

Sildam noted on the show that while Järvik assured the Riigikogu last Thursday that he would not resign, his party's own vice-chair, Martin Helme, did not do the same.

"Martin Helme would have had the ideal opportunity to say yes, of course [Järvik stays], but instead he said he couldn't comment right now," Sildam said, noting that Helme's words were: "I can't say today one way or the other, but we now know what Mart Järvik's own position is and how the ultimate decision will come."

This demonstrates that the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is already searching for a new rural affairs ministerial candidate.

Samost opined that in short, Helme was not able to say that Järvik was suitable for the role.

"Martin Helme cannot say, following Thursday's no-confidence motion, that he [Järvik] is objectively a good minister. The problem is just that - he is not a good minister. If he were a dazzling politician with broad support in some constituency, the situation would be different, but we aren't talking about such a situation," Samost said.

"I think that Järvik has ended up in the wrong place, and he does not exactly understand what's going on around him. He has also done things which a person with a better grasp of the workings of central government would not have," Sildam added, noting reports last week that Järvik had reinstated portraits of Soviet-era agricultural ministers, on the wall across from his ministerial office.

Samost suggested anyone with doubts about Järvik's suitability for the role consider his explanations [about placing back the portraits].

"The reasoning he gave continuity, but think about this statement for a moment. If a person who is a member of a national conservative party cannot figure out such black and white issues, I do not know how we can expect the minister to be able to make decisions on more complex issues," he said.

Sildam concurred, noting that he couldn't imagine portraits of [first chair of the Estonian Communist Party's central committee following the 1940 Soviet occupation] Johannes Lauristin and [head of the Estonian Self-Administration, the puppet government installed during the Nazi occupation of Estonia] Hjalmar Mägi hanging from the walls of the Stenbock House, the seat of government. According to reports, the portraits recently put up at the rural affairs ministry include those of agricultural or rural ministers during the Nazi occupation of 1941-1944.

The original Vikerraadio broadcast is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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