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'Rahva teenrid': Jüri Ratas set the tone for 2021 instead of Kaja Kallas

Meelis Mandel, Urmo Soonvald and Mirko Ojakivi.
Meelis Mandel, Urmo Soonvald and Mirko Ojakivi. Source: ERR

The outgoing year's major keywords are the coronavirus and energy crises, U.S. and German elections and the government's difficult road in Estonia, guests of "Rahva teenrid," Eesti Päevaleht and Delfi Editor-in-Chief Urmo Soonvald and Äripäev Editor-in-Chief Meelis Mandel, and host Mirko Ojakivi found on Saturday.

"Estonia lacks the capacity to manage a medical crisis," Soonvald said when commenting on the government's handling of vaccination efforts.

The journalist said that the state apparatus, led by the Ministry of Social Affairs, underestimated the people and overestimated itself, describing the approach as arrogant and borderline criminal. Soonvald said that attitudes toward vaccination and vaccination coverage would be far better and the number of coronavirus deaths lower today had people not been lumped in together and had regional differences, civil initiative and susceptibility to information been considered.

"We should find vaccination consensus in society," he said.

Soonvald remarked that the state has failed to involve civil society in efforts to explain the necessity of vaccination and provide inspiration.

"There are apartment association heads, church leaders, priests, teachers, coaches, active volunteers etc. – why haven't we used them?" the editor-in-chief of Delfi and EPL asked.

He said that society should stick together and demonstrate solidarity in difficult times that has proved impossible courtesy of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) that has continued its policy of consciously creating rifts in society after it was ousted from the government. This was done by looking to define the family when still in power, while efforts now concentrate on the vaccination issue.

"I never thought EKRE would find in vaccination such an effective tool for breaking society into a million pieces," Soonvald said, adding that the national conservatives have managed to create a situation where people who are against vaccination go see their dentist or cardiologist and have absolutely no qualms about the treatments they are prescribed, while they think they know everything about vaccination and constantly question immunization experts.

Meelis Mandel from Äripäev said that conflicts in society are inevitable and can be managed through intelligent administration as opposed to an iron fist. He gave the example of Russia where even Putin has failed to get his people to vaccinate.

He added that were EKRE still in the government, things today would not be any different from when they were insulting and threatening people and promoting lockdowns.

Mandel also described as troubling the fact that anti-vaccination sentiment has spread to concern immunization against very serious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough and polio.

Mirko Ojakivi said that the starting point of mandatory vaccination should be clearly marked down, suggesting that Estonia does not need an armed forces members of which spend their time isolating as close contacts, which is what happened last year. The same goes for medical staff. While nursing homes could also have mandatory vaccination, there is a good chance such an order would see establishments forced to fire most people with no one to hire in their stead, the host said.

He also pointed to EKRE having changed its emphasis after leaving the government. If before, the party aimed to represent the majority in its attempt to define the family (on the level of the Constitution – ed.), EKRE seems to be protecting a minority when it comes to vaccination.

"They [now] identify as a liberal party standing up for the individual instead of protecting collective interests. Where EKRE still in the government, they would very likely have gone down the path of vaccination themselves and not wearing kid gloves," Ojakivi opined.

Urmo Soonvald said that the tone of Estonian politics was set by [Center Party leader] Jüri Ratas and not PM Kaja Kallas (Reform) and that Ratas' conduct turned the presidential election process into a bumpy road short on democratic transparency. He suggested that Ratas is still frustrated over losing the prime minister's seat, which is why he is railing against the government's every decision despite the fact his party is part of it.

"And I do not see that changing in the new year," Soonvald added.

Soonvald described as stupidity cases of corruption that robbed Center of its lead position in the previous government, saying that even though suspicions around Center and its members – Mailis Reps, Porto Franco, Valga vote-buying – have not landed in court yet, it is troubling when corruption seems to mainly reside in a single party.

Meelis Mandel added that Äripäev wrote back when Ratas became PM that the government was working under a party deep in debt, which is a threat in itself, and that no cleanse has taken place in the top echelons of the party, even though Ratas promised to address corruption back when he became chairman.

Other topics included climate goals, the energy crisis, German and U.S. elections and the refugee crisis.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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