'Olukorrast riigis' considers Center biggest winner of government crisis

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Hosts of "Olukorrast riigis" Harry Tuul and Andrus Karnau Source: ERR

Journalists Andrus Karnau and Harry Tuul agreed that the Center Party has gained the most from Estonia's government change on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show.

"The Center Party has been very clever," Karnau found, when describing the government crisis and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' resignation on Tuesday following suspicions of corruption. The host said that Center that is the second largest party in the Riigikogu managed to become the Reform Party and its leader Kaja Kallas' key to a new government.

"I agree that they are the clear winners in this situation," Tuul said, adding that Center had the best cards going into the crisis. He said that the possibility of the recent coalition continuing under a different PM was still on the table Wednesday morning and that a Reform-SDE-Isamaa alliance was also considered but did not materialize because there is no love lost between Isamaa and the Reform Party.

Karnau also pointed to Ratas' performance on Wednesday night when he announced his resignation. The PM did not seem downcast in the slightest and instead came off cheerful and even "euphoric." Center gained from Wednesday media coverage that initially reported the same coalition would continue despite Ratas' resignation, which information wasn't overturned until that afternoon when it turned out Center and Reform have plans for a coalition. "It was an ingenious ploy, whether intentional or not," Karnau said.

The host recalled that in addition to new suspicions of corruptions from Tuesday, Center is still grappling with the €50,000 donation by businesswoman Jana-Helen Juhaste and Mailis Reps' misdemeanor case. Heads of the party could also be afraid of businessman Hillar Teder shedding light on new circumstances.

Karnau found that an alternative coalition got stuck behind Isamaa that he described as split since its Parempoolsed in-house group would like the party run by a chairman of its choosing. This would change the course plotted by current chair Helir-Valdor Seeder. "Therefore, it is difficult to involve Isamaa in the government today because it is split. A shift of balance could have seen Isamaa leave the previous government and Center without power," Karnau offered.

No great expectations for new government

The journalists agreed that no great expectations should be placed on the new government.

"Looking at the incoming coalition's agreements, the main message seems to be that there are none," Tuul found.

Karnau said that it is hardly possible to achieve much in the two years until Riigikogu elections. The government must also address the coronavirus crisis that makes it impossible to set any other major goals, he added.

Tuul disagreed when he said that coalitions usually make good on their election promises in the first two years. "Also, what happened to all this talk of not allowing a good crisis to go to waste? But I suppose we will see soon enough," Tuul said.

Karnau said that there should be clarity in April or May which is when the new coalition will start working on the new state budget strategy.

Tuul also pointed out that the Reform Party has spent four years in the opposition but must now start to defend their policies and function in the real world.

The government coping could be affected by Kaja Kallas' inexperience and the fact Center has few ministerial candidates and will be forced to include little-known or inexperienced people. "All of it will leave a mark on the government," Karnau said.

The hosts also discussed the Porto Franco real estate development, work of the Riigikogu on the backdrop of the marriage referendum being scrapped, cleric Annika Laats' conflict with the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) over Laats defending gay rights and the conduct of global internet giants.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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