Kaja Kallas reaffirmed as Reform Party leader following online meeting

Reform leader Kaja Kallas.
Reform leader Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kaja Kallas has been returned as Reform Party chair following a party meeting which also elected its new 17-member board.

Kallas, who was the only candidate running as leader, received 984 votes, gave a speech at the meeting – conducted remotely due to coronavirus considerations – in which she said that the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has not led to any improvement in the situation in Estonia, even for its supporters, and that including it in the coalition had been a mistake on the part of Center and Isamaa.

"Today, we can say with confidence that the Isamaa and the Center Party made a mistake," Kallas said.

"With each passing day, this mistake is becoming increasingly painful to see for all of us. Hundreds of thousands of Estonians feel shame, sadness and pain from all this. By the way, the well-being of EKRE's main supporters have not improved at all either, under the current government. The government does not pay the slightest attention to the real problems of these people. How long will those spewing invective rejoice in the knowledge that even if we do nothing else, we at least cause hurt?" she said.

A coalition deal between Center, EKRE and Isamaa was signed in late April 2019, although the Reform Party had won the largest number of seats for any single party at the general election the previous month.

Kaja Kallas also used her speech to call on the party leaders of Center and Isamaa to replace EKRE in the current coalition. Nonetheless, Reform would be forming the next administration, she said.

Kallas also called on citizens voting in a planned poll on the definition of marriage to vote "no" in answer to the question whether such unions should be defined as being between one man and one woman.

Former finance minister Jürgen Ligi, MEP Urmas Paet, the party's group leader at Tallinn city council chambers Kristen Michal, Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas, and MPs Marko Mihkelson and Aivar Sõerd were among those elected to the board.

"There have always been alternatives," Kallas went on during her presentation.

"I understand that we have changed coalitions over the course of our long years of rule, and this has created conflicting feelings in our partners. But now, we see a situation where the survival of the coalition is like a value in itself."

Story continues after board meeting gallery below.

"No coalition agreement can justify the abandonment of European values, the mockery of our long-standing allies, the constant weakening of our country's institutions. Why does one coalition agreement continue to be placed above Estonia's national interests?" she continued.

"Coalitions change, and should do so. I have an appeal to other party leaders – instead of getting stuck in the past, we should instead move forward. We have a number of challenges facing Estonia that need to be addressed. Together we have built an Estonia that is too beautiful to calmly watch its demolition from the side."

Kallas also said that EKRE and other populist parties of its ilk have not attempted to reconnect society anywhere they are active, but rather have led to its polarization.

1,128 party members participated in the election of board members, with three regional members also elected.

Jürgen Ligi received the highest number of votes as board member with 811, with Urmas Paet next on 789.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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