Kaimar Karu: EKRE-style populism is not what the Estonian people need

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Kaimar Karu appearing on ETV politics show 'Esimene stuudio' in 2019. Source: ERR

The Estonian people do not need the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), though they equally do not need any of the other current parties – be it the coalition partners Reform and Center, opposition parties Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE), or the non-parliamentary Eesti 200 or the Greens, former IT and foreign trade minister Kaimar Karu noted on his social media page Thursday.

What the Estonian public in fact needs are people who care about the future of the country, and the type of individuals who, in a parliamentary democracy at least, could be found among the ranks of politicians too,

Karu's post followed several day's filibustering by EKRE over a bill which would streamline the hosting and use of personal data, including biometric data, consolidating it into one place where it had been dispersed across several databases. While this law passed at the Riigikogu Tuesday, EKRE leader Martin Helme paid a visit to President Kersti Kaljulaid Wednesday evening to discuss the matter further. The president signs legislation into effect.

EKRE, together with Isamaa, also tabled a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) Wednesday afternoon, running into evening, during which time former EKRE leader and former interior minister Mart Helme referred to the prime minister as having "bipolar disorder", portal Delfi reports (link in Estonian).

While he was interior minister (2019-2020) Helme has thrown a brickbat at Finnish premier Sanna Marin, when he referred to her as a "salesgirl".

The motion of no-confidence failed to pass. As opposition leader, Kaja Kallas and her party also brought to the Riigikogu several no-confidence motions in the Center/EKRE/Isamaa government and its ministers.

In a post which was also reproduced by daily Postimees (link in Estonian), Karu, who was IT and foreign trade minister from late 2019 to spring 2020, added that as for EKRE, their slogans are exactly that – a populist call to arms which have little content behind them.

Although the words themselves signal important issues for Estonians, such as independence, language, culture and family, these belie a desire for political power.

Ultimately, those who support the party come from those individuals who have been disillusioned with other parties in the past, sometimes by more than one party, and who are frustrated with, for instance, Reform's supposed arrogance and lack of forward thinking, or Center's supposed corruption and lack of inclusion, Isamaa's backwardness, SDE's lack of visibility, Eesti 200's elitism etc., he goes on.

EKRE, on the other hand, seem to have got the recipe right in terms of reading the public mood, in that the party has polarized society, pushing it apart with more vigor even than the Red Sea was once divided in a previous epoch, and has a skilled leader.

This this does not alter the fact that EKRE does not stand for the interests of any particular societal group, and only by coincidence seems to coincide in worldview terms with some sections of society, Karu continues.

The party stands out from the pack with its different words, faces, its sheer roar in the Riigikogu's debating hall, in a way that none of the other parties who, it is perceived, seem to have abandoned the ordinary people, do – but underneath all this, EKRE does not even try to have a realistic action plan in place to solve Estonia's issues in a forward-thinking manner.

Then again, neither do any of the other parties either, Karu adds.

The original Postimees piece (in Estonian) is here.

Kaimar Karu was IT and foreign trade minister November 2019 to April 2020. Although he was hired by EKRE from a successful career in IT based in London, to fill the spot vacated by Kert Kingo, who had resigned, he was not a party member, and has never joined the party.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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