Opinion: Isamaa isn't showing some teeth, it's saying we're still here ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) and Mart Helme (EKRE).
Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) and Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

Ohh, Isamaa is showing some teeth, several people interested in politics were surprised to note as they followed Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia's (EKRE) verbal battles in recent weeks. In reality, however, Isamaa wasn't showing any teeth; it was reminding its coalition partner that it exists, journalist Toomas Sildam writes in an opinion piece.

EKRE's limited political experience has given rise to a situation in which many of their leading politicians are no longer grounded; this could also be considered delusions of grandeur, Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder told Joosep Tiks at daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL). Seeder is often a straightforward man, but this kind of jab, not to say slap in the face, against a partner in government was surprising.

"Inappropriate tone" and "some guy named Seeder" were the mildest comments made by Mart Helme, who recently stepped down as EKRE chairman. Harsher comments predicted the collapse of Isamaa's parliamentary group, Seeder's incapability of handling the job of party chairman as well as EKRE's refusal to allow the next president to come from Isamaa's ranks.

Such a verbal rollercoaster often precedes a coalition collapse, if there aren't just three months left until the next elections, as was the case with the Social Democrats' conflict with Isamaa regarding the UN's Global Compact for Migration at the end of 2018.

Isamaa has now formed an effective alliance with the Center Party against EKRE, however, in order to force the national conservatives to yield on the matter of allowing foreign labor into the country and resolving labor concerns in agriculture and construction, as well as industry. Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) clearly backed Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), and look at it from any angle you'd like, but on July 6, EKRE was forced to accept a compromise — the government reopened Estonia's borders to labor and educational migration, and restrictions are minimal.

But months of bickering over what to do with foreign workers and the outraging of Estonian farmers in the process ate into the government's internal trust cache.

Thus EKRE's new chairman Martin Helme is right in saying that this isn't good, because all kinds of disputes, trouble and sharpness in political cooperation chip away at trust capital or goodwill, based on which it would be much easier to get things done.

EKRE leader did not foresee that their obstinacy would drive Isamaa to increasingly ask themselves — how long are we to suffer this? Support falling to the borderline 5 percent in public polls indicates that this government coalition party is disappearing into the others' shadows. Despite the fact that theirs are the portfolios of the highly visible defense, foreign and justice ministers, which are also held by influential politicians who — at least, so it seems — are sometimes ashamed of their ties to this coalition.

"We're still here" — that's how one could currently attempt to interpret Isamaa leaders' standing up both publicly and privately. "We want to be more visible and don't want to remain in EKRE's shadow," one could add.

If such an explanation for Isamaa leaders' actions is accurate, then there will be more exciting moments to come from the coalition — who are heading into the presidential and local government elections next year. And we'll get to see to what extent Martin Helme's statement that we're living in insane times really applies to the government coalition.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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