Feature: What does the future hold for Estonia's coalition?

Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas.
Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

On Thursday, the government agreed on new energy crisis compensation measures after tense discussions which last for a week. But what does the future hold for the Reform-Center coalition? Weekly news show "AK. Nädal" spoke to the experts.

The coalition gathered online every day last week to find a solution to the electricity crisis. The situation seemed to be difficult for the coalition which formed just over a year ago.

"The situation is generally tense," prime minister, chairman of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas said.

"This is a leadership crisis. We can't say the situation is great, this is clear," chairman of the Center Party Jüri Ratas said.

The coalition has 14 months until the next election, but will it hold together until then?

Last week rumors spread that the coalition was at a stalemate and on the verge of collapsing. But Social Democratic Party MP Raimond Kaljulaid told AK this is unlikely to happen.

Former Reform Party top politician Meelis Atonen agreed but said disagreements are likely to continue. "I think it will keep happening until the next elections. It's sad, but it can't be changed," Atonen said.

Political scientist Tõnis Saarts said even though there are cracks in the coalition, the Center Party nor the Reform Party do not have good alternative options.

Although it seems restoring the former Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition could be easiest, Saarts foresees problems. He said EKRE does not seem interested in returning to the government and may believe it can do better in the next election by remaining in opposition until then.

Helme: A new coalition was discussed

EKRE chairman Martin Helme said there are pros and cons to joining the coalition as well as staying in opposition.

"If we go to the government with the goal that we're going to solve problems and the crisis and it's successful, it's a political win. I don't see it at all that we have no reason or benefit to go to the government. Yes, but provided we can implement their proposed solutions," Helme said.

Although no reference is made to Helme's positions, Raimond Kaljulaid suggested that EKRE could have higher ambitions when joining the coalition. All the more so as they did not instigate the end of the previous coalition

"I can't imagine them going to the so-called Center Party government. I think EKRE would say yes, we can come to the government, but then we want to run that government ourselves and Martin Helme must become the prime minister," Kaljulaid said.

Helme confirmed that a new possible coalition has been contemplated in recent weeks. He said that the possibilities for the restoration of the old coalition - the Center Party, the Isamaa Party and EKRE - and the formation of a three-party alliance known from ancient times - the Reform Party, the Isamaa and the Social Democrats - were looked into. However, no specific offers were made to the opposition.

"But they were all not serious enough or one or the other party was not bold enough. Or the opposition parties did not find these proposals attractive enough," Helme said.

To the question of what was offered, Helme replied briefly: "Well, here I have to be discreet."

Reform's Meelis Atonen said: "I don't think a Reform Party representative is negotiating with anyone else and, figuratively speaking, looking for a new coalition just in case. And I don't think the Center Party will do that."

He said that there were also personal problems behind the conflict, and he compares Jüri Ratas' communication with the Reform Party to bullying at school.

In the last Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition, Ratas, with apologies and cakes, was being bullied - but now he has become the bully.

"It seemed to me that it left a very deep impression, and now that Jüri Ratas is no longer the prime minister, for some reason he feels that he has to be a bully. Not to those who bullied him, but the Reform Party and Kaja Kallas," Atonen said.

Atonen said the coalition will remain in place until the elections. However, Martin Helme rather doubts this.

"It is very unlikely that they will survive the next big crisis. It will be difficult to predict whether this big crisis will come in the spring or autumn or what it will be," Helme said.

Tõnis Saarts said the next quarrel could be triggered by unexpected scandals as well as statements that the other party cannot tolerate. At the same time, foreign policy events, such as hostilities in Ukraine, could unite the coalition.

"As always in all societies, when there is an external threat, people gather around their leaders and rely on them. If the government can push the right buttons and pursue constructive policies, it can even increase their position and popularity," Saarts said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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