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Annely Akkermann: A shift in use of power

Annely Akkermann
Annely Akkermann Source: Private collection

By dismissing the Ministry of Rural Affairs' secretary general Illar Lemetti, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has not solved Estonia's government crisis but created a new and even bigger one.

Ministers have erred in the past, said or done something to warrant a resignation or their removal from office. While that is nothing extraordinary in itself, so far, apolitical officials have not been sacrificed on the coalition's altar.

Unfortunately, Jüri Ratas ran out of pawns in the political game of chess being played and reached for a piece that didn't belong on the board to begin with – an independent public servant to be sacrificed, sold. This happened even after everyone in Estonia had read State Secretary Taimar Peterkop's report that proved that Mart Järvik lied and confirmed the secretary general's efforts to steer the ministry's actions back into legitimate waters.

For historical reasons, the constitution divides power in a balanced manner between various instances one of which is an apolitical body of state officials that serves the country based on their oath of office, a code of ethics and rights and obligations provided by law.

Illar Lemetti's dismissal constitutes a political blow against this exemplary service. A shift in how the state of Estonia wields power has taken place. Whereas we need to emphasize the word "exemplary" here as our self-preservation instinct forces all of us to close our eyes to obvious problems from time to time. Only the most principled officials report their superiors' transgressions.

Illar Lemetti's removal from office has been compared to a beheading in the press.

There is little that is new under the sun. Salome bewitched Herod with her dancing and the latter had John the Baptist beheaded. The story has inspired artists throughout the centuries as every era has had its own Herods who, mesmerized by their own power, behead those who urge repentance, preach order and point to violations.

Heads of the coalition of the Centre Party, Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Isamaa have not managed to turn their election promises into a coherent program. Every member clings to its main promises, portfolios and positions maintained through horse trading.

One government market day was held on October 23. Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) talked about the good work done by Prosecutor General Lavly Perling and that she remains his favorite candidate for the position in front of the Riigikogu at 12 p.m. That same afternoon saw then Foreign Trade and IT Minister Kert Kingo (EKRE) resign.

Before the rooster could crow for the third time, Raivo Aeg had given up on insisting Perling stay on for a second term following pressure from EKRE. Even though Aeg said there is no sense in looking for a connection between Kingo and Perling decisions, it is nevertheless there for everyone to see, despite the fact such connections shouldn't even exist.

The next market day arrived on November 14 when the Reform Party and Social Democratic Party (SDE) filed a motion of no-confidence against Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik.

Isamaa dropped its "let's have the facts first" attitude and voted against expressing no confidence in Järvik and – surprise, surprise – their pension reform plan was approved in the government by noon.

Even though members of the government claim the coalition remains united, one does not need 20/20 vision do see that the government is held together exclusively by matters that should not be connected. Failed ministers must not be traded for a highly valued prosecutor general or a pension system 20 years in the making.

The third market day dawned on November 25 when the price paid for removing a failed minister was the officialdom's obligation to serve rule of law with courage and integrity.

Jüri Ratas is not a good manager, a good prime minister capable of having the government move in the same direction and maintain a businesslike mood.

Jüri Ratas has paid a price that was not his to pay for the government staying together, for the Estonian state and people. Even if Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas was too direct in suggesting Jüri was selling out Estonia, she was nevertheless right.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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