Rain Raud: Five reasons why the lesser evil is the best possible choice

Rein Raud.
Rein Raud. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

The Reform Party and Center Party coalition covers the political spectrum in Estonia more or less as completely as a Reform-SDE-Isamaa alliance would. However, cooperation between the two largest Riigikogu parties can only be pragmatic, which is the only way to pull Estonia out of the bog it has sunk into, Rein Raud writes.

I have never been a voter of the Reform Party or the Center Party, even though for different reasons.

The cynicism, arrogance and almost uncompromising loyalty to the wealthiest part of society of many leading Reformists has rubbed me the wrong way.

My criticism for Center concerns their overly flexible morals and a potential lack of a backbone among several leading figures of the party. And, of course, jumping from one corruption scandal to the next and an allegedly dormant cooperation agreement with the ruling party in the Kremlin.

However, the current low tide in Estonian politics is one of the worst we have seen since the country regained its independence, which is why Reform and Center forming the next government between them is welcome and hope-inspiring.

Firstly, because society and the state have all but ceased to functional normally. Legal procedures are no longer seen for what they are but as a part of some grand evil plan. The foundations of the rule of law are infected with dry rot fed by the outgoing government's policy.

What is more: the coronavirus crisis, economic situation and the split in society are all mutually amplifying, with convulsions in the rest of the world only adding to the problem. Exiting this situation requires systematic and thorough cooperation that is not motivated by anger or blind faith.

This in turn means that we need a stable government to last until the next elections neither partner in which is too easily intimidated. A coalition between Reform, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa, which I would find much more palatable in terms of my worldview, would be constantly open to sabotage by both junior partners.

The Reform Party and Center Party coalition covers the political spectrum in Estonia more or less as completely as a Reform-SDE-Isamaa alliance would. However, cooperation between the two largest Riigikogu parties can only be pragmatic, which is the only way to pull Estonia out of the bog it has sunk into.

Secondly, it seems to me that even though Isamaa includes several players with a considerable political past, present and future, the party's current head and a few other mouthpieces have steered it into a crisis, turned it into EKRE-light and shown less than like-minded individuals the door.

The more rational and open views of the Parempoolsed [in-house group] have not secured a foothold in Isamaa. Even though some Isamaa ministers have succeeded in maintaining their line in the outgoing government, the party as a whole does not seem ready to rule.

Perhaps it would be time for Isamaa to abandon democratic centrism and bring back its brand of moderate conservatism that seems to have all but disappeared from its ranks by now?

Thirdly, I am frightened by the possibility of another Center-EKRE coalition and resulting cooperation that could produce some pretty poisonous fruits down the line.

We should not kid ourselves. The inner workings of Center seem to be versatile to say the least and several paths lay open to the party, and even though the part of voters that harbor a certain Soviet nostalgia is expected to fall due to demographic reasons, it remains influential enough today to motivate darker forces inside Center to sympathize with EKRE values to a greater degree than recently – if only to keep a part of its traditional voter and power base.

While I cannot really imagine a united front between SDE and EKRE, being sent to the opposition could cause Isamaa to undergo a different kind of split than what its leaders have had in mind so far where today's crypto-national conservatives could join their ideological alma mater, while more sensible conservatives could grow stronger in the opposition.

Fourthly, I believe that Reform and Center will perhaps find it easier to reverse some of the previous government's especially harmful decisions neither has wanted or at least consider how to curb their negative effect. Both domestically and outside Estonia.

I am also fairly certain that working together they will manage to bring Estonia out of the club of post-communist Eastern European countries that Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu and his friends were pushing the country toward.

Fifthly, I dare hope – even though it seems paradoxical – that Reform and Center could do some good in the field of integration.

It might just happen that government cooperation will force both major parties to reforge their ideological slogans into practicable policies that serve the interests of the whole of society.

Mailis Reps (Center) has been instrumental in developing a universal school model that could help Russian-speaking youths reach equal opportunities for self-realization and that could, in theory, match Reform's idea of how things should be.

It is high time to abandon the old scheme in Estonian politics that has seen the "Russian card" dusted off and entered into play before every election day to give one side the chance to pretend they are fiery patriots and the other to play the part of sincere minority representatives – and allow both to snuff out debate in all other areas.

But what about political purity, one might ask, and with very good reason I'm afraid. It is a shame that what is the most suitable government today in my opinion would be made up of parties that have both committed past offenses, while one also needs to defend against very serious and most likely legitimate allegations today.

That said, I have not heard news of Isamaa having returned support sums it received from the major party sponsor involved in the very incident to be investigated. EKRE is free to lecture everyone else on corruption until its own dirty laundry will hopefully be dragged into the light by the new government.

Since Minister of Finance Martin Helme has been very forthcoming in demonstrating his arithmetic skills (or rather lack thereof) to the general public, it is quite likely that his former adviser Kersti Kracht, who admittedly is much better with numbers but also a suspect in a corruption investigation, has prepared a considerable part of his decisions in the past.

I suppose we will also have clarity in the Louis Freeh episode, especially if the seat of finance minister should return to someone who has been elected the best in the business in Europe in years past.

This leaves SDE as the only party to pass with a more or less clean bill insofar as corruption is concerned, but whether the reason is a higher sense or morals or simply that they've lacked the opportunity to sully their hands is another matter entirely. Especially if one thinks back to the party's eagerness to participate in running the Tallinn city government in the good old Savisaarian fashion.

While SDE has made some changes since then, the same could be said of other political parties.

Therefore – even though I will remain a critic of future governments, I wish the next one many successes. It would be especially nice if Center were to publicly renounce its cooperation agreement with the Kremlin, while I'm afraid you can't have everything.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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