Ratas: A carwash worker can become prime minister in Estonia

In his speech at the congress of the Center Party on Saturday, chairman of the party and prime minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas emphasized the importance of human rights and equal opportunities and stressed, referring to his own career, that Estonia is a country where a person who washes cars can become the prime minister.

"We must unwaveringly stand for our Constitution and the rights of all people of Estonia," Ratas said. "Our Estonia is a country where a person who washes cars can become prime minister."

Interior Minister Mart Helme, then head of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) which is one of the two junior partners to Center in the government, attracted broad criticism in December by describing the new prime minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, as a "shop assistant girl" who has become prime minister. 

The comments have resurfaced after poet Sveta Grigorjeva gave a speech on Thursday saying it was not possible for a Russian-Estonian sales assistant to become prime minister in Estonia.

Ratas established a car maintenance company, called Värvilised, in 1999 and was its CEO for three years. 

Rather than pursuing a distinction between one's own people and others, the Center Party views everyone as our people, chairman of the party Ratas said in party congress speech. He emphasized that everyone in Estonia must have equal rights and opportunities regardless of their origin, nationality or sexual orientation. 

"We need to act and demonstrate that for the Estonian Center Party there are, instead of our own people and not our own people - let me emphasize it - only our people," Ratas said.

"The ability to bring together different people, build bridges between remote areas and centers, between people who speak Estonian and people who speak Russian, between people with low and high incomes, between the young and the old, has always been a strength of the Center Party.

"As well as to put forward substantive ideas which take life in Estonia forward. We engage in actions and implement initiatives which benefit all members of the society. It is a duty and a responsibility of the Center Party to fight for it that the Estonian state always had its face towards the people."

Ratas said that it is a goal for the party also this time to win the local elections, which is why they wish to improve their showing in all municipalities and electoral districts.

"Of course we are seeking again, with the support of the voters, for the sixth time, an absolute majority in the council of the capital Tallinn, which for the public is definitely one of the measures of the Center Party's success in the elections," Ratas said. "We must be able to make an effort, demonstrate substance, and work much harder than our competitors. We must justify the high hopes of our members, supporters, the public, and all people of Estonia with each of our words and actions, and offer an assurance to every one of them that we can be relied upon, that the Center Party can be trusted," Ratas said. 

He also stressed the importance of the observance of human rights, referring to the developments in Belarus.

Speaking about climate policy, he said that it must be Estonia's goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. 

In addition, he said that the Center Party is about to come forward with an initiative for a comprehensive system of social care. 

The congress re-elected Jüri Rata as chairman, with Mailis Reps, Mihhail Kõlvart, Jaanus Karilaid and Tanel Kiik proposed as deputy chairman candidates, and a new board.

Mihhail Korb will continue as the ruling party's secretary general.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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