The leadership of the Center Party has been making efforts to resurrect the party's former coalition with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress writes, claiming it fears that the Reform Party will triumph at the March 2023 election given Reform's soaring popularity in the current security crisis.
While Center has been in coalition with Reform since January 2021, its leader, Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas, and its Riigikogu chief whip Jaanus Karilaid, have recently made overtures to EKRE and Isamaa, both in opposition.
Eesti Ekspress wrote in its editorial that (link in Estonian): "While [Center] have minimized their efforts in the media, attempts over the past week have been very serious. The deal was in essence hammered out over between the leaders last weekend."
The article added that: "The plan was for the current coalition to re-elect Ratas as the speaker of the Riigikogu last Thursday, so that the Reform Party would not be able to offer the place to anyone in the event of a government crisis. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas would have seen a motion of no-confidence earlier on this week."
The reasoning was simply that both Ratas and EKRE are afraid that if they don't change up the coalition now, Reform might sweep all before it at the March 2023 general election and at a time when Center's support has been plummeting.
"Support for the Center Party is falling like a stone, and the war started by Russia has created a very difficult dilemma regarding the expectations of Estonian and Russian voters," the article went on.
The plan had been slowed down by Isamaa and its leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Eesti Ekspress continued, as that party, the smallest of the three by seats, could see itself squeezed further still, as well as some of its MPs not seeing the political rationale for a vote of no-confidence in Kallas at a time of crisis.
Of concrete names from among Isamaa's MPs, Eesti Ekspress referenced former finance minister Sven Sester, Raivo E. Tamm and Viktoria Ladõnskaja, who recently said she would not be running in next year's general election (link in Estonian)
Ratas: Politicians certainly communicate with one another
Speaking to ERR in response to the piece, Jüri Ratas said Wednesday that the article was pure speculation.
He said: "The current government continues to function. It is always the case that politicians communicate with each other, within coalitions and with the opposition. So I will not comment on any speculation about what has been in the media."
Helir-Valdor Seeder said he had not heard anything on negotiations or meetings of the kind Eesti Ekspress reported.
Seeder said: "I have not been involved in any such process. I have not negotiated on this issue to form a new governing coalition at the moment. I do not know on what basis of information the [Ekspress] journalist wrote."
Veteran Reform MP Siim Kallas told ERR Wednesday that according to the information he has, Center's efforts in attempting to form an alternative coalition were indeed serious ones.
Center, with 25 seats, was in office with EKRE (19 seats) and Isamaa (10) from April 2019, following the general election the previous month, until mid-January 2021. The party then re-entered office with Reform, which has 34 seats.
With a little under a year until the next general election , the number of seats for each party has not changed since the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition was in office, and no MPs have left their parties.
Ratas was reelected Riigikogu speaker last week.
Reform's popularity with the voters has been on the up since the Russian invasion began, nearly a month ago, standing at 27.7 percent according to one recent survey, compared with 16.3 percent for Center – the party's lowest rating since that particular survey began, in early 2019.
Editor: Andrew Whyte