Reform Party members see different solutions to internal tensions

Local election night parties, October 17, 2021.
Local election night parties, October 17, 2021. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's (Reform) criticism against the current Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has created tension within the party along with falling support ratings. ETV's weekly news show "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" looked at potential solutions on Sunday.

On November 12, Kallas and the current coalition were criticized by Ansip. In an interview with Delfi, he criticized the government for failing to deal with the coronavirus crisis, compared Kallas's behavior to a selfish lady of the manor and highlighted falling support among voters.

Ansip said that he was concerned about Estonia and the Reform Party.

"I am convinced that without a critical analysis within the party, we will not get out of this crisis," Ansip said at the time, speaking about the coronavirus pandemic.

"Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" spoke to several Reform party ministers about Ansip's concerns.

Political parties' election night gatherings ahead of the European results. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Reform MP: The fight should be ended

Jürgen Ligi, a multiple-time minister with 27 years of experience in the Reform Party, told AK that he has argued with both Kaja Kallas and Andrus Ansip.

"I still regret such monologues in the media, both past and present. Now, this criticism must be formed in some way so that they may not be able to do it anymore," Ligi said.

Ligi said nine years ago, Kallas, who had just entered politics, was the one who criticized the party in her blog and then in the media.

This was during a Reform Party funding scandal and Kallas doubted whether explanations by colleagues were true. Ansip was chairman and prime minister of the party at the time.

Jürgen Ligi Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

During the scandal, Ligi said Kallas was young and was not communicating with the people involved. Ligi says that nine years ago, Kallas was an outsider like Ansip is now. This was and is the criticism of the outsider, Ligi believes, adding that he agrees with Ansip's criticism.

"One of the most important things is that the government needs to learn to formulate both the statistics and its choices clearly. The second thing I agree with and have criticized is the organization of vaccination. But that is no longer the case," he said.

However, Ligi said the other complaints need to be listed in order to understand them more clearly.

"This criticism is a mix of the present and the past, personal and national questions. The party's rating, infection rate and pace of vaccination are all very different things. It's not possible for the government to be responsible for everything," Ligi said.

Võrklaev: We have a productive atmosphere

There are about 200 young people in the Reform Party's youth council, and many of them are asking more experienced party members if something is wrong.

Kristo Enn Vaga, a member of the Youth Council and an adviser to the Minister of Defense, said both Kallas and Ansip are trying to do their best and the debate in the party is welcomed.

"But what we really don't like about young people and what I hoped was a thing of the past are personal attacks. Such face-to-face clashes do not take anyone forward. There should be more cooperation between the state authorities and all politicians," Vaga said.

Vaga thinks that the discussion should continue and Kallas and Ansip should try to come to an agreement.

Mart Võrklaev. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Mart Võrklaev, chairman of the Reform Party's Riigikogu faction highlighted cooperation and mutual understanding.

"I would not be looking for a bigger quarrel here or whether we have a gap somewhere. I certainly do not see that. [...} The most important thing today is to resolve the crisis," Võrklaev said. 

"I wouldn't read too much into it - in fact - I say again - we have a productive atmosphere here."

Reform's polling over time

Polling by Kantar Emor shows the Reform Party is currently supported by 20 percent of the electorate, which is a similar level of support as the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE). Both parties are the most popular in Estonia.

In April 2018, when Kaja Kallas started as party chairman - and the party was in opposition - support was around 30 percent. At the beginning of Ansip's term, the percentage was also around 20.

The Bronze Soldier's crisis sent the party's popularity through the roof, with 45 percent of voters supporting the prime minister's party in May 2007.

At the end of Ansip's term in 2013, the party's support began to decline and remained close to 20 percent during Taavi Rõivas' leadership. It started to shift again to 30 percent during the period when Hanno Pevkur led the party.

The party's highest level of support in recent years was when the Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition was ruling the country in 2020 and Reform was in opposition.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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