Kallas: Ratas, Reps in Riigikogu could hamper cabinet decision-making
Former prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and former education minister Mailis Reps' (Center) remaining in the Riigikogu rather then in the Reform/Center cabinet may hold up the latter's decision making processes, new Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
This means procedures require streamlining, Kallas says, while other politicians say the situation potentially enhances the Riigikogu's position.
Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder says that the phenomenon is nothing new – indeed he himself was already party leader when Isamaa was in the last administration with Center and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), though he was not a government minister.
Seeder says the arrangement helps balance the work of executive and legislature.
"It will definitely be a bit more inconvenient for the incumbent prime minister (Kaja Kallas – ed.), but it may not be the worst case scenario in terms of the end result. However, it will require a slightly different work organization," Seeder told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Wednesday night.
"The coalition partner's leader (i.e. Ratas – ed.) will become more involved in the executive's work, certainly more formally," Seeder added.
Prime minister: Smoother decision-making procedure required
Seeder was deputy speaker of the Riigikogu while his party was in office; Jüri Ratas has been tipped as the potential next speaker of the house.
Fears of a sidelining of the parliament increased with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying measures, which have been implemented by government order, which requires no assent from the Riigikogu.
New prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says she aims to find a smoother decision-making process.
Kallas told AK that: "When making government decisions, it could be the case that party leaders who are not in the cabinet (I.e the former prime minister – ed.) say that decision should be reconsidered or opened up. This would definitely make decision-making harder, which is why we need to find ways to better organize things."
Isamaa leader: Coalition negotiations took place at Riigikogu, not Stenbock
Helir-Valdor Seeder pointed to the fact that the coalition council, headed by Mailis Reps from the Center Party, through her, and Jüri Ratas, brought the Riigikogu into the picture from the start of the process.
Negotiations between Center and Reform ahead of forming the new coalition took place at the Riigikogu building on Toompea, rather than 500 meters away at the Stenbock House (seat of the government – ed.), Seeder noted.
Mailis Reps was education minister in the last administration, but resigned following controversy over her use of a ministry car and driver for non-work-related reasons.
Jüri Ratas remained acting prime minister between his resignation on January 13 and Kaja Kallas being sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, however, actively partaking in a Council of the EU virtual meeting last Thursday.
Ratas says the situation requires close communication between politicians, while noting that the party's senior minister in effect is Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab.
EKRE leader and former finance minister Martin Helme says, however, that the coalition council is too limited in its mandate, as it principally deals with Riigikogu votes, which is not enough for smooth cooperation.
Helme told AK that: "This is a too limited format to actually deal with government policy. After all, government policy is what gets sent to the Riigikogu [for voting on bills etc.]. So they still have to find another format somewhere. During the previous government, that format was, so to speak, dinners at the Stenbock House."
Current Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) is set to retain his role until at least late March.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte