'Olukorrast riigis' discusses longevity of the government

Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas sign the coalition agreement between their parties.
Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas sign the coalition agreement between their parties. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Hosts of Raadio 2 political talk show "Olukorrast riigis" Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja discussed whether the Reform Party and Center Party coalition will last until the 2023 elections in light of recent tensions.

Riikoja suggested that the matter of compensating consumers for soaring energy prices has caused the government to fall out. Center leader Jüri Ratas also plays a role in said tensions by criticizing the government without being a member, in addition to having a less than stellar relationship with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). The premiere is not considered capable of rising above the rift and bringing the sides together, which is what the prime minister in a coalition government should do," Riikoja found.

Lepik raised the question of Center's motivation to be part of the current government in the first place, considering Ratas' decision to sideline Reform in favor of a government with Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) back in 2019. "I doubt Ratas' attitudes have changed much since then," Lepik found.

Riikoja added that how Reform feels about Center also needs to be considered. "I believe it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black," he said.

Lepik said that it all boils down to the political system in Estonia necessitating coalition governments, and because the Social Democratic Party (SDE) has a very weak presence in the current Riigikogu, there are few options for coalitions. Because Reform will likely not form an alliance with EKRE this election cycle, they are left with Center.

"The political situation today is unfortunate in that personal relationships play a bigger role than they have in the last 10-15 years. Reform could form a coalition with both Center and EKRE but gets along with neither. A potential coalition between Reform, SDE and Isamaa once again broke on the rocks of poor personal relationships between party leaders. There are no good solutions in sight," Riikoja concluded.

The host added, however, that while he was sure the government would last until the spring of 2023 earlier in the year, he is less convinced of it today.

Riikoja said that while Center keeps offering practicable solutions for compensating people for soaring energy prices, Reform is equally consistent in shooting them down.

"Are we seeing any serious proposals in terms of what could be done from the Reform Party? We are not! All we hear is Kaja Kallas talking about high electricity price being beneficial for the green turn and wondering why people are suddenly complaining after a long period of low market prices. It is beyond the clouds rhetoric. We can hear nothing in terms of real measures from the Reform Party, while that is precisely what is needed," Riikoja said.

Lepik said that the two Ratas governments demonstrated the state's willingness to intervene with various benefits and tax changes. "But is it sensible to permanently lower VAT to solve a temporary problem? Reform is against the proposal but has offered some support measures. It is another question to what extent those are useful," he said.

Riikoja said that the health of the government depend less on such details and more on general attitudes. "And more on the Reform Party's impracticable arrogance that has already impacted their rating and their apparent hypocrisy when suggesting that slashing VAT would constitute supporting people who do not need help. I do not recall Reform tabling this particular argument when it decided to hike VAT from 18 percent to 20 percent. Was it suggested that it would affect everyone, including those it shouldn't back then? No, they just got it done quickly!" he said.

Lepik said that while the row over energy prices could be defused on the ideological plane, it could nevertheless become the catalyst that will see the government dissolved.

"I'm willing to bet this government will not make it until elections," Riikoja said.

Other topics discussed included the coronavirus situation and vaccination, Elron passenger numbers, suspicions of vote-buying in Valga and the Center Party in said context, rapid price advance on the Tallinn real estate market, donations and news of puppy and kitten farms from this week and how their owners are treated.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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