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Center Party leader: Kaja Kallas should have resigned as prime minister

Jüri Ratas and Kaja Kallas, on Estonian independence day earlier this year.
Jüri Ratas and Kaja Kallas, on Estonian independence day earlier this year. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) should have resigned, along with the government, on Friday, Center Party chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas says.

Ratas told ERR Friday evening that: "Due to the political situation today, where the prime minister did not bring a political debate to the Riigikogu – in a parliamentary situation it would have been normal for the premier to have resigned – but instead released seven Center Party ministers, the Center Party proposes commencing political talks with Isamaa and the conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)."

"I think it is logical that if the government is dissolved by the prime minister and it is a coalition government, then this statement should have been taken to Kadriorg today, where she would resign, then the political debate would take place in the Riigikogu."

"Naturally the President of the Republic then has the right, and also the obligation, to make a proposal to that person who will form up the next functioning government," Ratas went on.

Estonia needs a functioning government, one which, together with EKRE and Isamaa, the Center Party could offer, Ratas went on. "If the two parties say yes and these negotiations eventually lead to the formation of a coalition, then I believe it is a functioning government."

Center was last in office with EKRE and Isamaa from April 2019 to January 2021, when the now outgoing Reform/Center coalition entered office.

EKRE's leader Martin Helme has said he is open to three-way talks with Center and Isamaa; the latter's leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, has so far been more lukewarm to the idea, telling ERR in an interview before news of the dissolution of the Reform/Center coalition became public that Center and EKRE did not share the same world-view in all areas.

Isamaa had voted with Reform on a failed bill to make kindergarten education Estonian-only – one of the areas of deadlock in the lead up to Friday's news.

Center deputy leader: Party has agreed to talk to EKRE, Isamaa

Meanwhile, Tanel Kiik, Center's deputy leader and health minister in the outgoing coalition, said that the party had agreed to start talks with EKRE and Isamaa, following a board meeting Friday evening.

He said: "In the current situation, the board of the Center Party has decided by consensus to start political consultations with EKRE and Isamaa. This is our proposal; how those it is issued to will respond, naturally we do not know," said Kiik, noting that Jüri Ratas will head up those talks.

As to the question why Center would want to enter office with EKRE given the previous experience of being in office, Kiik said that it is ot ratings that matter, but whether a policy important to the party can get implemented.

He said: "The ratings are such that they fluctuate. Of course the parties are watching the ratings, but there were moments in the previous coalition where the rating was very high, there were moments when it was lower. In the current coalition, we have to face the truth, our support has been lower than in the previous one, it 's also real, "he said.

Kiik said that President Alar Karis' statement that the coalition collapsed because its members could not get along with each other was partly true.

"There will always be disputes; this is normal. What was fatal this time was the different views regarding responses to the energy crisis, which also concerned the preparation of a supplementary budget and its measures, and now the final draft of the Family Beneits Bill," Kiik said.

Now there is a new political reality, a new political situation. I am personally sorry, this is not the best solution for Estonia. "Now every party has to make the moves that will help it stand up for the voters of its own party," he added, and said he had not considered his own future as a minister yet, were Center to enter office with EKRE and Isamaa.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) dismissed Center's seven ministers Friday afternoon, formally obtaining President Alar Karis' consent to release them.

The development followed weeks of stalemate, manifested most recently in two bills, one brought by Reform which would have made kindergarten education in Estonia conducted in the state language only, which Center voted down via a proposal to do so from EKRE, and another, from Center, which would have boosted family support benefits and which was the subject of a Reform filibuster.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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