Siim Kallas: Reform told to approach businessmen if wanted to enter office

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Siim Kallas.
Siim Kallas. Source: ERR

The Reform Party was told to approach two noted Estonian businessmen to achieve its goal of entering office after the March 2019 general elections, veteran Reform MP Siim Kallas told daily Õhtuleht. Kallas later first modified his words, then appeared to row back from his original line, as reported in Õhtuleht, on Saturday evening, saying he had overspoken in the interview.

Kallas, who is also Riigikogu deputy speaker and a former prime minister and European Commissioner, told Õhtuleht (link in Estonian), in a piece which published on Friday night, that after winning the largest number of seats for any single party (34 compared with Center's 26) at the March 3 election, the Reform Party was told to approach media mogul Margus Linnmäe and Parvel Pruunsild, owner of short term loan provider Bigbank.

Linnamäe and Pruunsild, both identified in the media as having conservative leanings and supporting the Isamaa party, would in turn have given the order to Isamaa to enter office with Reform, Kallas said, rather than Center.

Kallas said there had been two winners at the general election, Reform, and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE – 19 seats), but the former found itself locked out of negotiations from the get go due to behind-the-scenes machinations, despite having a sufficient electoral mandate to go into office, though Kallas also noted that cooperation with EKRE was not possible for as long as Mart and Martin Helme were at the helm.

Kallas, who said that he had spoken to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) on the matter, said that such dealings were strange, and more reminiscent of Moldovan politics, than that of Estonia

What the quid pro quo with Linnamäe, whose business interests include the Postimees Group, publishers of the largest Estonian daily, and Pruunsild would have been, was not reported.

Kallas: Don't want to identify 'button man'

Portal Delfi followed up on (link in Estonian) the Õhtuleht story on Saturday afternoon, asking Siim Kallas the identity of the 'button man' (Estonian: Nupumees), whom Kallas said was the would-be go-between who would have brokered the alleged deal with Linnamäe and Pruunsild.

Kallas did not give much away, saying that the individual might have been exaggerating in their claims regarding the two businessmen, but then again might not have, and added that he did not want to say if the individual was a Reform Party member, member of another party, or none of the above, saying that it was simply a "knowledgeable person".

Kallas added that Reform would not have seriously followed up on the offer in any case, adding that the party would have gone to Isamaa's representatives themselves if the need presented itself.

Kallas also would not be drawn on whether Center or EKRE had spoken to the "button man" during their road to office last March and April.

Social media comment: I spoke a little too emphatically and gave the wrong impression

Siim Kallas qualified his statements still more, on his own social media account Saturday evening.

"In today's Õhtuleht, I recalled a little too vividly the events and conversations which followed the [March 2019] elections," he wrote.

"There were a lot of political matchmakers and those offering political advice at that time," he went on.

"I dealt with various conversations and speculation a little too racily in my interview. What I said has given the wrong impression. My desire was not to generate too much mystique and frisson, nor [to introduce] new phantom characters into Estonian politics. I didn't mean anything bad to anyone with my words."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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