EKRE chairman: Parties still prepared to try and reach an agreement

Martin Helme.
Martin Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

EKRE, Isamaa and Center are still prepared to try and reach a deal for a future coalition, EKRE party Chairman Martin Helme said after a joint meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

"We went through all the issues, including those where some kind of problems may arise — without doubt, if there are three parties around the table, these will exist. But we will probably be able to find an agreement to these issues," he said. 

"I would sum up the mood in the room by saying that everyone is ready to work to find a solution," he added.

He said the three parties shared "a lot of common ground" on issues they believe will be important between now and the next scheduled elections in March 2023. The biggest concern is the cost of living crisis and people's ability to manage.

The previous coalition did not fall apart because few ministers had security clearance, as suggested by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Friday, but because the Reform Party "refuses to see, refuses to hear, refuses to admit that there is an economic problem in Estonia" and so fails to provide a solution, Helme said.

"It was more or less the number one problem for everyone," he added.

Another issue for EKRE is "uncontrolled immigration" and national defense, with Helme saying "despite a lot of propaganda" Estonia has fewer weapons now than in January 2022.

One of the stumbling blocks between the parties is Estonian language education. While EKRE and Isamaa share the view a transition is needed, Center is against changes.

"But they were ready to discuss this," Helme stressed.

The chairman did not speculate on which parties Isamaa would choose to negotiate with. Helme wants to avoid a situation where a government cannot be formed quickly or where Reform's minority government will continue.

He reiterated that Kallas should resign and said it goes against the constitution if she does not.

Yesterday, Helme said if EKRE joined a coalition with Isamaa and Center he would want to be prime minister.

On Wednesday, Isamaa held pre-negotiation discussions with Reform and the Social Democratic Parrty followed by an EKRE and Center.

Despite Helme's more optimistic tone, Center Party Chairman Jüri Ratas emerged from the same meeting saying the party was prepared to go into opposition if necessary.

In contrast, Kallas said her party remains optimistic about forming a new coalition with Isamaa. SDE leader Lauri Läänemets echoed the sentiment, adding that there is little reason to doubt a Reform-SDE-Isamaa coalition being formed.

Last Friday, Reform kicked the Center Party and its seven ministers out of the governing coalition. It remains in power as a minority government.

Isamaa is billed as the kingmaker — a "priske pruut" (desirable bride, or literally a fat bride) in Estonian — in this round of coalition negotiations. The party will make a decision about which parties it wants to join in the coming days.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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