Leading opposition politicians have been criticizing the current situation and a minority government under Kaja Kallas and the Reform Party, since Kallas dismissed the seven Center Party ministers from her cabinet last Friday, but at the same time are cautious about issuing a vote of no-confidence in Kallas as premier, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Tuesday.
Jaak Aab, a leading Center Party politician, party board member and until he was dismissed last Friday, public administration minister, told AK that: "I think that if [Reform] have made an official proposal to Isamaa and the Social Democrats, there are technically opportunities there, but it would be best for Kaja Kallas to resign and formally form such an administration."
Reform rejects this, however.
Party deputy whip at the Riigikogu, Erkki Keldo, told AK that: "I would not hurry things forward. If this were the case, we would have met with the MPs and the party board to discuss our next steps."
Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Jevegeni Ossinovski said that a stalemate has arisen, adding that this is intended to put pressure on Kallas to resign, if the situation lasts long enough, or even see public opinion – riding high in the wake of her handling of the international security crisis – turn against her.
Ossinovski said: "The aim is either to put pressure on the prime minister suddenly to resign if the political crisis lasts long enough; perhaps the public will turn against the prime minister in that situation, or at to least create an impression that, look now, Estonia cannot go on without a government, but such a stalemate has arisen and while there is nothing to be done, a solution must be found."
Ossinvoski, a former SDE leader, says he finds the likelihood of a third alternative – off-schedule elections held on an extraordinary basis ahead of the general election next March – slim.
He also reiterated statements made at the weekend to the effect that the impasse is the result of plotting between Center, Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), with the aim of recreating the coalition in office April 2019-January 2021.
At the same time, not all Isamaa MPs will be on board with that alignment, Ossinovski added, making it difficult for Isamaa to get all its MPs to vote against Kallas in any no-confidence motion; EKRE leader Martin Helme had already started collecting signatures for a potential motion early last week and before Kallas dismissed the Center Party ministers.
AK also sounded out Isamaa heavyweight and former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu on the question of a motion against Kallas.
He said: "This is a hypothetical question, and I cannot answer it. My response is that we will have preliminary consultations in the next day or two, and then we will make a decision," adding that meetings would include those with members of two possible coalition line-ups.
Isamaa has recently been seen as the kingmakers, or, in Estonian political cartoons, the "plump bride" in that while Reform have been wooing them to come on board in a coalition involving SDE also – an alignment last in office in November 2016 – so too has the Center Party, meaning they have a choice.
A Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition would have 55 MPs – a mathematical majority and sufficient to vote Kallas out-of-office in a no-confidence motion if all MPs voted with their party. A Reform/SDE/Isamaa lineup would have 56 if independent MP Raimond Kaljulaid, who usually votes with SDE, is included. At the same time, Reform would be by far the senior party – with more MPs than SDE and Isamaa combined. Center on the other hand has just seven more MPs than EKRE and has been polling below the latter for months, according to most surveys.
If Kallas were to lose a vote of no-confidence this does not mean her administration is out automatically – they could ask President Alar Karis to call extraordinary elections, something which has not happened in the 30-plus years since the restoration of independence.
The resignation of Kallas would render any no-confidence motion moribund.
Isamaa has said that it will meet at board level Saturday to discuss its next move.
Editor: Andrew Whyte