Outgoing prime minister Ratas to return to the Riigikogu

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Jüri Ratas (Center) on a previous edition of "Esimene stuudio". Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Jüri Ratas (Center) says that he will return to the Riigikogu following his resignation announcement a little over 24 hours ago.

Talking to ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio" Wednesday night, Ratas said that he needed to take political responsibility for a real estate developer state loan scandal connected to his party, and to do so early on.

"It has really been important for me that the Center Party gets its finances in order, and I still think we are on the right track," Ratas told "Esimene stuudio".

Ratas rejected claims that the timing of the investigation – while a proposed, now scrapped, referendum on the definition of marriage was being processed at the Riigikogu – spoke of a "deep state", adding that he had his full faith in the Internal Security Service (ISS) and the Office of the Prosecutor General in carrying out their activities and making their decisions.

The ongoing health and economic crisis makes finding a new coalition a matter of urgency, said Ratas, naming Kaja Kallas as likely to head that up.

Ratas said: "Kaja Kallas has never prime minister, but I still think she has the necessary qualities [to deal with the economic situation]."

Ratas: Registered Partnership Act can now be fully implemented

Ratas also said that the who discussion surrounding the proposed referendum, which would have asked all Estonian citizens whether marriage should be defined in legislation as a union between one man and one woman (as it currently is in any case – ed.), demonstrated the need for implementing the Registered Partnership Act in full.

The act passed during the tenure of Ratas' predecessor, Taavi Rõivas, and would grant legal recognition to non-married, cohabiting couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, but its implementing legislation has foundered since then.

He explained that the discussion of the entire issue of the referendum in the Riigikogu shows that the implementing acts of the Cohabitation Act should be adopted.

Ratas: Outgoing coalition bounced from one political crisis to next

Ratas said that Center was equally ready to be either in office or opposition, once the new coalition is formed up, adding he had met with former education minister Mailis Reps, a champion of a Center-Reform coalition, with the addition of Isamaa, earlier in the evening.

Of the outgoing Center-EKRE-Isamaa lineup, Ratas said that while it had been effective in its work, particularly once the pandemic arrived, there had been too many political crises during its time in office.

Though he did not name them, Ratas was likely referring to the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), with regular episodes involving its leading members and including attacks on NATO and the leaders of key allied nations dogging the coalition throughout its existence – incidents which EKRE in turn would cite as evidence of liberal media global elites and a deep state at work.

Outgoing prime minister: Work as an MP just as important

Ratas said that the collapse of the coalition, which entered office in late April 2019, had been an unpleasant surprise for all involved parties; it's successor should be made up of partners who want to see Estonia develop – something which had happened under his tenure as premier since entering office in November 2016, and evidenced by, for example, Estonians returning to their home-land from other parts of the world.

He said: "I think this is largely an opportunity for Estonia to move forward with a coalition of two parties," adding that nothing definite could be said yet.

As noted Isamaa has been mentioned as a possible third party with Reform and Center. Such a lineup would between it have 71 MPs at the 101-seat Riigikogu, a considerably larger majority than that of coalitions in recent years.

Ratas noted that for himself, work as an MP was no less significant than as heading up the government.

"Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward," he said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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