The current Reform-Center coalition is coming apart at the seams, opposition party Isamaa's leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said Friday. Seeder said that parliament should as a result look at options for a new alignment, amid soaring energy prices and attempt to mitigate their worst effects.
"The current coalition is both falling apart and fizzling out,"* Seeder told ERR.
"Plus, there is no functioning government in Estonia today," he added.
"This government is not able to work, this government is not able to cooperate, this government is not decisive," he added.
Seeder noted that the coalition partners are openly engaged in balancing out each other's proposals on resolving the energy price crisis, but equally are engaged in campaigning, which, he said, was not helpful in a crisis.
"In regard to leading Estonia responsibly so that decisions that are necessary in the current crisis can be made, and where we do not have to think about how popular one or another decision might be, but how to exit the crisis as soon as possible, this government is obviously not up to the task," Seeder went on.
"As a result, we find that this government is exhausted, and we should start looking for opportunities in the Riigikogu to form a new, active government," he said, adding no present negotiations are underway.
On Monday, Isamaa protested the energy prices and policies outside the Stenbock House, seat of the government and a scenario which they had often been on the receiving end of while in office with Center and EKRE.
Seeder's party has 12 Riigikogu seats; 51 or more are needed to have a majority – Reform and Center combined have 59 seats.
With the next general elections due in March 2023, politics will inevitably start to gear up towards these – Eesti 200 leader Kristina Kallas recently said that her party's election campaign will begin next week, though Eesti 200 is still to win any Riigikogu seats.
On the other hand, if a coalition survives through to late on this year, it is likely to make it to March of next year. In late 2018, the-then Center/Isamaa/SDE coalition found itself in a minority at the 101-seat chamber after MPs left some of the constituent parties, though it continued on to the election the following March.
After the collapse of the ensuing Center/EKRE/Isamaa administration just over a year ago, Isamaa's former foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said he suspected that the Center-Reform talks, made official soon after the exit from office of the coalition, had been going on in secret ahead of that time.
Aside from Covid and the security situation relating to Russia, NATO and Ukraine, the main issue facing the current Reform-Center coalition, one of the first bi-partite administrations since independence, are the continued, high energy prices and how to mitigate their effects.
So far, the two support measures have met with criticism of being too ineffective.
Reform has steadfastly opposed slashing VAT on energy from its current rate of 20 percent, to 8 percent, while Center in principle still supports the measure, and has hinted that it would be prepared to compromise on, for instance, the length of time it would be in place.
Unusually, all three opposition parties have said they support the move – not only Isamaa, who tabled a bill to do just that, but also the usually at-loggerheads Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Social Democratic Party (SDE).
Reform have also in the past ruled-out ever being in coalition with the right-wing EKRE, though Center did just that, from April 2019 to a year ago.
EKRE leader Martin Helme says that a vote of no-confidence in the government will be discussed next week, the first full week of work for the Riigikogu, and added that not only Seeder, but also SDE leader Indrek Saar was on board with the idea. He also claimed Reform was riven with divisions and may look for a new prime ministerial candidate in order to stay in office.
*Seeder's phraseology works better in the original Estonian: "Käriseb ja säriseb".
Editor: Andrew Whyte