EKRE vice-chair not ruling out coalition with Reform
In an interview with ERR, Henn Põlluaas, vice-chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), said that he would like to see the previous government coalition of EKRE, the Center Party and Isamaa restored as it was the most workable. However, Põlluaas did not rule out a coalition involving the Reform Party.
Nobody knows whether the coalition is over or not. There is talk of different options and new coalitions. How would you describe the current political situation?
I would say, crazy. The leading political party in the government refuses to support Estonian children and, under the guise of a nice draft law on primary education, is actually trying to make Estonian kindergartens half Russian-speaking. And if we look at all the turbulence that has been created around this, it is literally insane.
Is it all the fault of the Reform Party?
Very much so, yes. After all, they have always been so arrogant and obvious about their own opinion, that all the other parties are inferior, including their coalition partners, whom they have always stabbed in the back. We shall now see how today's coalition ends up, who knifes whom. But [Reform leader, PM] Kaja Kallas made it clear during Riigikogu Question Time on Wednesday that this coalition is no more.
Is EKRE ready to enter a new coalition or would it prefer to remain in opposition until the elections?
If we look at the problems we have - inflation in Estonia is three times higher than in Europe, and in the fall these problems will get even worse, our people's living standards will drop even more drastically - it would be very difficult to go there. But at the same time, if we think that the same coalition will continue and nothing is done to bring down energy prices, to curb inflation, to ensure the well-being of our people, then what are we left with? We have such a sense of statesmanship in us, that our aim is still absolutely to help the country and the people, and no matter how difficult it is, we are up to the task.
Is it easier to persuade the Center Party rather than Reform (to enter into a coalition), as an alternative to going into coalition with both?
In principle, we could go into coalition with both, if we can agree on the important things that we will do. So that we really do not just sit there in government, waiting for the next election and seeing things get worse. What is important is that we get the chance to do something, something positive for Estonia.
Looking at it from a political scientist's perspective, would, for example, a coalition of the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democrats be any different from the current one?
It would certainly be different, it would be much more liberal. Isamaa would completely lose face there and barely have much say. Isamaa would hardly be more than a lapdog in this extreme liberal government.
In a coalition of the Centre Party, EKRE, Isamaa, it would be easier for Isamaa to save face?
Yes, of course, it would be much easier for all of us. If you recall, when the previous coalition of EKRE, the Center Party and Isamaa was formed, we did a study in which we looked at the goals and promises in the programs of all the parties, and it was precisely this coalition that had the most in common. So, without a doubt, if the previous coalition were to come back, it would be the most viable.
Isamaa, too, say that they know nothing, they remain passive and are watching, unmoved, from the sidelines. Is EKRE doing anything towards bringing back the previous coalition?
It depends on the parties in the current coalition. It seems to me that the Reform Party is very active at the moment, and the Social Democrats have already spoken out. It is evident in SDE's about-turn on child benefits. But, at the moment, there are no other negotiations about coalitions. Of course, there is daily contact with all parties and I believe, ultimately, a lot depends on Isamaa.
On Wednesday, the Social Democrats supported you on the primary education law.
Well, whether or not they supported us, they simply abstained.
Well, it could be seen as support. But they have announced that they will not give their support to the family benefits bill, even though they themselves are among its initiators.
How do you now see the summer ahead? Will those 2,000 (legislative) amendments be dealt with, or not, as has been the case on previous occasions?
Yes, look, in the case of the supplementary budget, they gave us 1.8 seconds to present each proposal, so we can't say we didn't have a chance. Well, that is absolutely absurd. Surely, we can do the same in return. However, if these proposals are brought to the chamber and voted on one by one, with a ten-minute break before each proposal, then the summer really will be wasted. But, if you look at these proposals, they are literally dead. There is absolutely no substance. They could all be merged. The committee picks a date, votes on it, adopts it, and then the rest are competing proposals that drop off (the list). So actually, of the several thousand (amendments), I do not know how many will be left in the end that we will manage to vote on.
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Editor: Michael Cole