SDE MP: Personal issues not suitable for referendums

Ivari Padar (right) on Wednesday's
Ivari Padar (right) on Wednesday's "Otse uudistemajast". Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Former Social Democratic Party (SDE) MEP and current Riigikogu member Ivari Padar says that questions of marriage, like other private matters, should not be put up for a referendum. Padar also says that the state budget has been used to punish other societal groups, including farmers.

Appearing on Wednesday's edition of ERR politics discussion show "Otse uudistemajast", Padar said that questions of personal life should not be put to a referendum, referring to coalition party the Conservative People's Party of Estonia's (EKRE) plan to hold a referendum on the definition of marriage to run concurrently with next autumn's local elections.

The planned referendum will also have the effect of polarizing society further, meaning that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) needs to consider keeping EKRE on as bedfellows going forward.

"The prime minister should think about whether he wants to associate his name with them," he added, noting that while a referendum might be an ideal way of dealing with, for instance, whether to build a nuclear power plant or not, but not private matters, and is likely to improve EKRE's position to the detriment of Estonian society as a whole.

The phenomenon also has the effect of distracting the electorate from key issues, as well as normalizing a situation where it is acceptable to single out particular segments of society for attack, Padar went on.

While his own party had made good progress under Indrek Saar, who became leader last year, simple mathematics shows that if the current coalition lineup were to disintegrate, only really a Reform-Center "super-coalition" would be viable.

Ultimately, Mart Helme knows that while his outbursts may appear emotional, they also carry with them a politically pragmatic streak in attracting public attention, including among those who support him and his party and not just those who do not.

Padar: Borrowing not bad per se, but money being spent on wrong things

As a former finance minister, in office, at the time of the last economic crisis, Padar said that at that time austerity had been the watchword due to Estonia's ambition to join the Eurozone – which became reality at the start of 2011.

While the current government's opposite approach to the current issues – namely borrowing – was not inherently bad, Padar went on, loan money was being spent on the wrong things.

"The circumstances are different [today]. At that time (during the crisis starting around 2008 – ed.) it was very important for us that we restored our financial trustworthiness," Padar said.

"Clearly we had moved in too optimistic of a direction; our budget outgoings had been too optimistic and this required the correct, radical solutions," Padar said.

"If we bring things forward to today's situation, then it can generally be seen that major revisions to the state budget have come at 10-year intervals," Padar continued, adding that he thought this would have been borne in mind during the negotiations for the 2021 state budget, currently at Riigikogu debate stage.

Either way, the basic first principles of the state budget are already in place, Padar said, and any changes brought in at Riigikogu debate stage will predominantly be cosmetic.

Padar: Farmers have the right to be angry

Padar also noted that farmers had every reason to express dissatisfaction at the budget – as they had been doing, particularly since €60 million requested by the sector had not materialized in the budget as unveiled at the end of September.

Padar, who was also minister of agriculture under the Taavi Rõivas (Reform) administration, added that the budget had been used to spite farmers, as a backlash against previous criticisms of the government by that sector.

"This is a new means of communication, where certain societal groups are being hit back at via the state budget."

The same phenomenon had been at play in barring third-country, particularly Ukrainian, workers' entry into the country, under the guise of coronavirus considerations.

"This wasn't motivated by anything other than political caprice," Padar said, adding that an inward looking nationalism had trumped rational economics.

"Noone can argue against providing our own people with as much work and as many opportunities as possible; but this on its own is not enough and for Estonian agriculture to be competitive, everything should be approached, insofar as it relates to the workforce, in as sensible and intelligent a means as possible."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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