Kristen Michal: Helme's statements sound like someone paid by Kremlin
In an appearance on ERR's live online broadcast of Otse Uudistemajast on Wednesday, Reform Party board member and MP Kristen Michal questioned the motives of Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE), who recently called NATO unity into question, as well as expressed readiness to form a new government with either the Centre Party or Isamaa.
"Such statements are like the statements of Kremlin-paid claqueurs who are tasked with eroding unity in countries," Michal said, adding that Helme's words in Tuesday's edition of the Finnish paperIltalehti are inappropriate.
He also asked whether perhaps the position of the chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) indicates a desire "to be liked by someone else, by whom people in Estonia generally don't want to be liked."
In an interview with Iltalehti published on Tuesday, Helme said that Estonia, together with Latvia and Lithuania, are considering an alternative defense plan alongside NATO. According to Michal, no one in Estonia understands Helme's statement, and the Reform MP also referred to party mate Ants Laaneots' words, according to which Helme is someone who doesn't really understand what he is talking about.
"If you ask me whether Mart Helme should be in the government, then I believe that he does not belong in the government," Michal stressed, bringing up various instances of the EKRE chairman labeling and harassing various societal groups. "Not at this level of maturity. Perhaps in the future."
Michal: First one to move joins us in government
Commenting on the activities of the Jüri Ratas-led Centre-EKRE-Isamaa coalition government, Michal said that Ratas is EKRE's hostage, as he constantly has to smooth over and explain statements made by the latter party's members.
The actions of EKRE ministers have left the opposition no choice but to organize motions of no confidence, he continued. "A motion of no confidence as such is by nature the drawing of attention to some kind of activity that is inappropriate in a democratic state," he explained. "Our role is to say that this kind of policy won't work."
Judging the sustainability of the current government, Michal said that the 2021 local government elections could bring about changes to the coalition, as an EKRE-initiated family-related referendum is expected to take place at the same time. "That could be worded thus: 'Is the marriage of the Centre Party and EKRE allowed?' Some kind of upheaval may arise from this."
In Tallinn, at least, the Centre Party may end up needing to find a coalition party.
Michal believes that both Centre and Isamaa may at one point develop an aversion to continuing cooperation with EKRE.
"I believe that a watershed will start to form," he said about Centre. "[Minister of Education and Research] Mailis Reps doesn't want to spend forever justifying [the actions of EKRE members], nor does Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart want to talk only about tram lines [and avoid criticizing EKRE]."
Commenting on Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas' alleged difficulties in communicating with Ratas, Michal noted that he has spoken with Ratas himself before, especially longer ago, and that the Centre Party chairman has given him the impression of a sincere and warm person.
"It seems to me as though Isamaa politicians have also begun to understand [the harmful effects of the current coalition]," he said. "Even they perked up in response to Helme's NATO statements, and I predict that there is more to come. There has been speculation that Isamaa may leave the coalition after the pension reform has been completed."
According to the party board member, Reform has things in common with both Isamaa and the Centre Party.
"I see common ground with Isamaa in both economic and security policy matters," he cited. "We could also reach joint decisions with the Centre Party that have long since been awaited in Estonian society. We could find common ground with both. Let's be honest, two of three partners have another option. Perhaps the one that moves first will have a better opportunity."
He has, however, ruled out any cooperation with EKRE as things currently stand.
"EKRE has to make a decision — if you want to be in power, then you have to take responsibility, and that is not like writing a party newsletter," Michal said.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla