'Samost ja Sildam': EKRE looking at long stay in the opposition

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Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The government of the Center Party, Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Isamaa that ended when Jüri Ratas resigned [on Tuesday] could be the last one for the national conservatives for a long time to come, journalists Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam found on Vikerraadio's "Samost ja Sildam" talk show Sunday.

"I believe that EKRE – if they are at all capable of self-analysis – understand they did a lot of things wrong and especially as concerns their rhetoric," Samost said. "I do not believe we will see a party or prime minister willing to include EKRE in their government in the coming years because everyone will remember how Jüri Ratas had to apologize and explain matters both at home and abroad every other week for statements made as part of EKRE's continued election campaign. I can only imagine how exhausting that must have been – EKRE robbed everyone of willingness to work with them for a very long time," he added.

Sildam agreed and said that it was evident during Ratas' press conference what a relief escaping his role was for him. "EKRE had brought the government to its breaking point and Jüri Ratas did not wish to carry on," Sildam said.

Samost chimed in and said that Martin Helme could have gone down in history as a good finance minister, while he will instead be remembered by what he said on a marginal talk show on Sundays. That is why EKRE will not be welcome in future governments nor get the chance to represent their voters.

Sildam said that the acuity of guerrilla warfare EKRE will resort to in the opposition will provide an indication of how long they will have to spend there – whether it will be two years (until next Riigikogu elections – ed.) or two plus four years. "That will be the decisive factor," he emphasized.

Outgoing government to go down in history with three topics

Samost said that Jüri Ratas' second government will be remembered for three things.

Firstly, the coronavirus epidemic and the crisis it caused that took up a lot of the government's time and energy.

The remaining two topics with long-term effects include major borrowing on the state level and involving EKRE in the government.

"No government in the coming decades will be able to escape the change Ratas' government introduced – the practice of financing the state budget using loan money," Samost emphasized. Even though Estonia's public debt is smaller than that of most other European countries, it will come to shape policy – possible tax hikes, austerity measures or new loans," he found.

Composition most important aspect of new government

Commenting on the incoming government of the Reform Party and Center Party, the journalists found that neither great change nor sharp social conflict is to be expected.

"While we can see a great desire to form a government after just a few days, there will not be fundamental change," Samost offered. He gave as the reason the fact that Center does not want change, while the Reform Party is convinced it needs to be in the government and does not wish to jeopardize its journey. The third reason is uncertainty in terms of state finances and any change that would require additional sums being impossible to introduce, the host found.

Sildam pointed to Russian-speaking voters whose support Center was slowly losing to EKRE regarding the marriage referendum topic. Many Russian voters still associate the Reform Party with the Bronze Night, meaning that Center working with Reform could further impact the former's support base.

Samost introduced the Russian schools topic that the Reform Party sought to switch to studying in Estonian with a recent bill. Considering that local elections will be held in Estonia in fall, it is likely that the status quo will be retained also concerning this matter, he found.

"Therefore, we can expect an administrative government as opposed to one geared toward new policy," Sildam found.

Samost pointed to several corruption suspicions and trials regarding Center and its members and also referenced cases tied to Reform Party members that beg the question of whether Mailis Reps (Center) or Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) will become ministers in the new government. "Looking at how little will change in terms of actual policy, the makeup of the government will be the most important aspect," he found.

The hosts of "Samost ja Sildam" also talked about Center's latest corruption scandal, the coronavirus crisis and the outgoing government's efforts to contain it, as well as vaccination and vaccine deliveries.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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