Interview: Kallas doesn't deny claim about forming new ruling coalition
In an interview with ERR on Thursday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that coalitions can be broken up in minutes, but they take significantly longer to form, adding that they are never formed via the media.
ERR: What will happen if the Center Party doesn't want to join the opposition after all, but intends to continue as such that you aren't satisfied and they aren't satisfied, but they won't leave the government either?
Kaja Kallas: No one else can make that decision on the Center Party's behalf. It seems as though they are demonstrating with their actions that they want to be in the opposition, but they dare not say so. I hope that the Center Party is working on self-reflection and that they make up their minds about what they want to be. You can't be like this where you're in the government, but are also constantly against that government. It's very sad that the Estonian-language kindergarten bill was sacrificed on Wednesday and that went bad.
ERR: You claim that you can't be in the government like this, but you can — they are right now. One could coast like this all the way to the elections [next] March.
Kallas: That isn't remotely reasonable. It's as though we're working hard, making decisions in the government, and then the decision-makers themselves are saying that these are the wrong decisions. And they're voted down in the Riigikogu too. If we've agreed — if we've agreed on something in the coalition agreement — then it's logical for it to be backed by the corresponding votes in the Riigikogu. And this is how you can govern. If you don't have those votes, then there's no coalition as such.
ERR: Have you as prime minister and head of the government set your government partner some kind of deadline for deciding, considering they could otherwise go on like this all the way through March?
Kallas: No, I have not given them a concrete deadline.
ERR: But do you intend to?
Kallas: We're constantly talking, and the desire is for the Center Party to decide already. That has been passed on to them. And that can be asked again each week or every day.
ERR: But you yourself also have the opportunity to resolve this situation. You as prime minister can resign, or you can take the Center Party's ministers' papers to the president and request that he dismiss them.
Kallas: Yes, that I can do. But if they want to end this coalition, and as we've seen via their actions on the Center Party's part, then it won't be by my hand, but done themselves. That is fair.
ERR: Do I understand that you do not want to end this coalition right now?
Kallas: This coalition is not working like this. Naturally we need to look for solutions for getting out of this situation.
ERR: But I'll ask again — why don't you just end this coalition?
Kallas: The thing is, there are 101 members in the Riigikogu. The math in the Riigikogu falls within that 101-member limit. And as very hard times are at hand, then prior to the elections there will be a very big push into the opposition.
ERR: There is no new coalition formed?
Kallas: Coalitions are never formed via the media. Coalitions can be broken up in minutes, but they take significantly longer to form.
ERR: Is this the point where "politicians should start drawing new pictures of the land and sea," as [Center Party chairman] Jüri Ratas said on Wednesday?
Kallas: These discussions aren't held via the media.
ERR: But you're already having these discussions somewhere?
Kallas: I'm not going to answer that question. Naturally everyone is discussing all remotely possible situations. But truly, these discussions and consultations are not held via the media.
ERR: You didn't say "no" outright.
Eight seconds of silence, ended by an Õhtuleht reporter interrupting.
ERR: Alright then.
Kallas: We're discussing everything. We have four ministers in the government who are gonna lose their jobs because they don't have a mandate in the Riigikogu. It's difficult to tell those ministers that you're losing your job and we don't know what's going to become of you. And now they want to do this by my hand. It would be fairer, however, for the Center Party to find it in them to behave in their words as they're behaving in their actions.
ERR: Do you still have faith that everyone will be celebrating Midsummer together?
Kallas: Everything changes quickly in politics — in minutes, and in hours. It's not my wish to cause a government crisis; it hasn't been all along. I haven't made a single move to break up the government coalition or come in with proposals from outside of the coalition agreement. That is what our coalition partner has constantly done. We have tried to take their concerns into consideration.
ERR: What concrete step on the Center Party's part are you waiting for and which would indicate that this de-escalation is near? And on the flipside — is the Reform Party also prepared to take some steps in order to resolve the situation?
Kallas: This is reminding me a bit of another process that is also currently underway — what could the West offer in order to de-escalate the situation? That is unfortunately the current state of affairs.
ERR: Are you comparing your coalition partner with [President Vladimir] Putin's Russia?
Kallas: We have very little time, and if others want [interviews] too, then that isn't really fair.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla