Leader of the Center Party and Estonia's outgoing Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that the government coalition would have lasted without the suspicion of corruption brought against the Center Party. However, the leader of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and outgoing Minister of Finance Martin Helme said the coalition fell because Center did not want to support the holding of a referendum on marriage.
"If there had not been a case against the Center Party, I believe that this coalition would have continued," Ratas said at the government's press conference on Thursday. "I believe the party group would have voted in favor of holding [the marriage referendum]."
"The coalition resigned because there was a suspicion," the outgoing premier said. "Because of that, I deemed it impossible to continue [as head of government]," he noted.
"As people, we've trusted each other and got along great," he said, commenting on cooperation within the coalition.
Ratas noted that if the prime minister resigns, so does the entire government.
"If Jüri Ratas had been a minister in the government, a different shuffle would have been possible," he said.
Martin Helme, said the suspicion of corruption was nothing but a pretext.
He believes the coalition fell apart because the Center Party did not want to see a vote held on the marriage referendum in the parliament. The vote was scheduled to take place on January 13, but Ratas resigned at 3 a.m. on the same day.
Helme added that the coalition had been arguing over holding the referendum since the end of summer.
Ratas noted that some members of the Center Party also wanted for the outgoing coalition to continue.
"Yesterday [Wednesday] it was absolutely possible that the coalition might continue," he said, adding that the extended board of the Center Party at a meeting on Wednesday evening decided to launch talks towards forming a new coalition.
Editor: Helen Wright