Interior minister plans to join Center Party, but needs time

Kristjan Jaani.
Kristjan Jaani. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Interior minister Kristjan Jaani says that while he is definitely planning to join the Center Party, he still needs time to do so.

Jaani, who was appointed minister by the Reform-Center incoming coalition directly from his post as head of the Northern Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" that he had had a conversation with the party's leader, Jüri Ratas, about joining.

"I asked for time. I can't take this step immediately, I need time to do it. Of course, I understand what the expectation for me is in the longer perspective. I have a plan, it just takes time as to when I can actually give the signature," Jaani said.

Jaani added that Ratas' offer to him to become minister made on Friday, January 22 (announced Sunday - ed.), was unexpected. He said that at the time, if another party had offered him the position, he would have given it some consideration.

Jaani informed his superior, head of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Elmar Vaher, of the proposal on Saturday. "We had a very good understanding and support, and I have a great colleague to ask advice from," Jaani said.

Jaani added that it did not feel strange for him to end up as the political superior of his current boss, i.e. Vaher, adding that the superior-subordinate relationship is not that direct in politics.

"I think that at a political level, it can't be taken in a way that one person is the superior and another, the subordinate. Administrative institutions are very independent from one another, and have professional management, and the minister doesn't intervene in the management of an institution."

Jaani noted that he has a long history with Elmar Vaher as colleagues, adding they have worked together on different levels. "We didn't only have a superior-subordinate relationship, but we've had multiple levels; for example when we worked as investigators. Of course, there is this understanding," he said.

August 2019 saw a clash between then-interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) and Elmar Vaher, arising from the former's complaint that the latter had said redundancies were in the offing at the PPA. While Helme called for Vaher's resignation, Jüri Ratas as prime minister subsequently oversaw a resolution of the conflict.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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