President Karis: If ultimatums replace cooperation, coalition cannot work
Without trust and cooperation, the Reform-Center coalition cannot run the country, at a time of an international security crisis, President Alar Karis says.
The head of state said: "We do not have the right to allow frivolity and short-sightedness to the extent that in the midst of many crises – from the international security situation to energy issues and the pandemic – Estonia has a government that is only a conditional one, since it is stuck in an internal trench war."
"The government must be hardworking and efficient," he added.
"One of the roles and responsibilities of both parties in the coalition is to maintain the co-operation and mutual trust of the self-governing coalition government. When ultimatums come in lieu of cooperation, and a united government morphs into a war of words, while trusts burns up in a bright flame, then there is no point in a coalition government going on together. Without cooperation and trust, the country cannot be managed," the head of state went on.
The president said he had spoken to the leaders of both Reform and Center on Thursday, following the split which emerged, ostensibly over legislation which would boost childcare benefits, and had asked them how deeply they assessed the differences to run and whether they might lead to a full crisis and collapse of the coalition.
A decision is needed on whether to continue in office together, he added.
The legislative amends tabled by Center at the Riigikogu on Thursday prompted a backlash from Reform, who argued the agreement had been to raise child benefits in this was as part of the 2023 state budget package to be debated later in the year.
MPs from four parties signed their assent to the bill; only the signatures of all or any of Reform's 34 MPs were absent.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) later challenged Center to issue a vote of no-confidence in her, while Jüri Ratas, Center's leader, blamed Kallas' words for the rift.
Government ministers do not sit at the Riiigkogu, and the amendments to the Child and Family Benefits Act act were brought to parliament by Jaanus Karilaid, Center's chief whip at the Riigikogu.
Center leader Jüri Ratas bridges the gap between executive and legislature in the sense that, while he is not a minister, he is speaker of the house.
The Reform-Center coalition entered office in January 2021 after the collapse of a coalition in which Center was the senior partner with Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE). Center is the smaller party by Riigikogu seats in the current lineup – with 26 to Reform's 34.
The Riigikogu elected Alar Karis president in August 2021.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte