Three of the Center Party's seven government ministers are to return to the Riigikogu as MPs, following Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) dismissal of the Center Party, the junior coalition partner, from office Friday.
Jaak Aab, formerly public administration minister and Taavi Aas, who had been economics affairs minister, will be sitting at parliament again, along with Erki Savisaar, who had been environment minister in the Reform-Center coalition.
The Riigikogu's board decided to restore the three ministers' powers as MPs on Friday. Government ministers in Estonia do not sit in the Riigikogu.
The similarly-named Aab and Aas had both been ministers since the current coalition entered office in January last yea and had held the post in the previous administration as well.
Erki Savisaar became environment minister in November last year, replacing Tõnis Mölder, who had stepped down.
The return of Aab, Aas and Savisaar to the Riigikogu umeans that Peeter Rahnel, Kerstin-Oudekki Loone and Andrei Korobeinik will have to step down as MPs.
The three were alternate members of parliament. Under Estonia's electoral system, ministers plucked from the Riigikogu are replaced by the next MP on the list not to have obtained a seat under Estonia's modified d'Hondt system of proportional representation. If a minister returns to parliament for any reason, the alternate must make way for them.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas dismissed Center's ministers on Friday after weeks of political deadlock and two bills, concerning family benefits and kindergarten reforms, whose processing at parliament had ground to a halt.
The other four ministers, Tiit Terik (culture), Kritian Jaani (interior), Tanel Kiik (health and labor) and Eva-Maria Liimets (foreign) had not been elected to the Riigikogu at the last general election in March 2019. Liimets had been a diplomat, and Jaani a police chief, prior to entering office in January 2021, while Kiik had been an advisor to Jüri Ratas and then head of his office, and served as social affairs minister in the previous Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition. Terik was appointed culture minister more recently, in November 2021.
President Alar Karis had publicly called for a functioning government, given the current security crisis, on more than one occasion, most recently the day before Kallas dismissed the ministers. Kallas also noted that of Center's ministers, only Jaani and Liimets' roles entailed NATO-level security clearance.
Reform has said that the party will now start negotiations with Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), two parties with which it was last in office until November 2016. While SDE's leader has made positive statements to the media about this prospect, Isamaa's has been more lukewarm to the prospect, though its leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, has also hedged, via his public statements, about entering office with Center and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) – an alignment which was in place from April 2019 until January 2021, when the Reform-Center coalition entered office.
Reform's seven ministers will have to double-up in the intervening time and take on one portfolio each, from the outgoing Center ministers.
Editor: Andrew Whyte