Toomas Sildam: When compelled cohabitation becomes a practical marriage ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Reform and Center representatives meeting on Monday evening. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It has been pointed out that if the government of the Center Party, Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Isamaa constituted compelled cohabitation, the Reform-Center alliance will be a practical marriage. However, a similar understanding of values between partners still matters in a marriage.

The resignation of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and the collapse of the government was unexpected also for elections winner the Reform Party. Even ten hours after Ratas' resignation on Wednesday, many in the party were not sure whether the public was being treated to a puppet show or whether their chairman Kaja Kallas would really get the chance to launch coalition talks.

We know now that Ratas wanted to get rid of the recent government and EKRE in it while keeping his party out of the opposition.

Were Riigikogu elections just one year away, we could refer to the incoming Reform-Center government as a Christmas peace coalition. However, elections are two years away.

That said, coalition talks do not seem to suggest Reform will get the chance to introduce major change. The healthcare and economic crises have laid down the tracks and come with a borrowed budget courtesy of COVID-19. Therefore, it cannot be treated as criticism that Reform and Center will rather put together an administrative government as opposed to one geared toward new policy. Of course, this does not mean they cannot adjust the emphasis here and there or change the general political air.

One difficult task awaiting Kaja Kallas is winning over Russian-speaking voters. The Reform Party is probably less than popular among the voter group courtesy of the removal of the Bronze Soldier in the spring of 2007. At the same time, Center has been losing more conservative Russian voters to EKRE that emphasizes traditional values.

Reform and Center negotiators have put factious topics like Russian schools and matters of citizenship aside for now. However, they now have to find a way to show the Russian voter the lighter side of the incoming coalition. Let us keep in mind – and this is of no small significance – that local government council elections will be held in nine months.

The second challenge is corruption or rather clearing the air of corruption. The very reason the previous coalition fell apart was suspicions of corruption brought against the Center Party, while the party initiated new coalition talks with Reform a day later. A somewhat unexpected situation in terms of political culture. Kaja Kallas is risking having to constantly explain the actions of her coalition partner just like Jüri Ratas spent the past two years smoothing over statements by EKRE leaders.

Kaja Kallas told "Aktuaalne kaamera" anchor Priit Kuusk that it would be a good signal for the public if the interior and justice portfolios would not go to Center. Makes sense. The new government also should not have ministers tainted by corruption. Only logical, right?

The new coalition agreement needs to include an item to reinforce the activities of the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) to put to bed any speculation of its liquidation sought by the recent government. It should also be agreed that the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Committee will carry out a review of how coronavirus crisis support measures have been used as that is what the prosecution's criticism and suspicions are based on.

It has been pointed out that if the government of the Center Party, Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Isamaa constituted compelled cohabitation, the Reform-Center alliance will be a practical marriage. However, a similar understanding of values between partners still matters in a marriage.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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