Martin Mölder: A run-of-the-mill government crisis
Of course, we could use a united and capable government heading into next fall. However, we could also use a government that cares as much for domestic policy as it does for its foreign counterpart, political analyst Martin Mölder found in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
Politics can still surprise us. And that is rather a good thing as a situation where no one takes unexpected steps for a very long time would spell trouble.
It is entirely normal that every political leader is out fighting for their party's interests. It is the chairman's job to make sure their organization is strong and sustainable.
It is also normal when a party leader believes they are the best person to run Estonia. Every head of a parliamentary party should be prepared to assume control of the government at any given moment. Those who are not are unfit to lead a party. In the end, democracy is born out of this kind of party competition even though specific political crises might seem out of place or unexpected.
The past five or six years have seen a lot more politics in Estonia than the five or six that came before. Starting with when the Reform Party was sent to the opposition after winning the elections in 2019 all the way to recent tensions between coalition partners. We can see how the Center Party has managed to put [coalition partner] Reform in quite a difficult position with a rather elegant maneuver. However, all of it fits quite nicely inside the confines of parliamentary democracy.
We should see a very different situation a month from now if both coalition partners keep their word. The Center Party has vowed to pass a bill to hike family and child benefits with support from other forces before Midsummer Day.
And Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has suggested that the government will cease to exist should this happen. Because Center refuses to express loss of confidence in Kallas, the government can only fall apart following Kallas' initiative, her resignation.
I'd wager politics will deliver another surprise here. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised were this situation to resolve itself in some other way.
Practically all Estonian voters feel that the state should do more to support having children. A Norstat and Institute for Societal Studies values survey from February reveals that 81.4 percent of people agree. Almost everyone agrees, including the majority of Reform voters.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone got on board also in the government and Riigikogu, following initial bursts of indignation?
We are heading into a difficult fall, and families, especially those with many children on whose shoulders the future of the Estonian people lies heaviest, are looking at tough times. Why not help them while we still can, while it's not too late. We would like to avoid the next economic crisis sending tens or even hundreds of thousands of people looking beyond Estonia, which is what happened last time.
Of course, we could use a united and capable government heading into next fall. However, we could also use a government that cares as much for domestic policy as it does for its foreign counterpart. A government with the skills and ideological aptitude to handle crises on both fronts.
Coalition partners should walk in tandem. One cannot run away from the other and needs to help its partner. The Center Party and Reform Party have for years formed the main axis of confrontation in Estonian politics. That alone renders government cooperation difficult even during the best of times, while recent party ratings changes have only added fuel to the fire.
The Reform Party has hit the jackpot. The Russian-Ukraine war has delivered them from a ratings slump following inept domestic maneuvering. In just three months, the party has regained all the support it lost in the past year. I'm sure it is a source of arrogance.
At the same time, support for Center has sported a downward trend for a few years, with the current security situation just the recent chapter in a longer process.
It is difficult to rule together in a situation where one is gaining as much as the other is losing. Government partners should help one another, and the one who tends to pull ahead should pay at least some attention to helping its inevitably temporary brother in arms keep up. Otherwise, unexpected attempts to establish oneself suddenly start to make sense.
Therefore, and considering general political developments, the ongoing government crisis is not surprising at all. Let us not attach too much significance to it. Rather, we should all give thought to how we can best help those heading into dire straits.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski