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EKRE chief: Isamaa choice to talk to Reform bad for both party and country

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

Isamaa's decision to enter into coalition talks with the Reform Party and the Social Democrats (SDE) is bad for both Estonia and for Isamaa itself, chair of the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Martin Helme said on Saturday afternoon, adding that the move likely closes the door on negotiations with his party and Center, should talks with Reform and SDE drag on.

Speaking after the meeting at which Isamaa made their announcement, Helme said that: "It is not particularly plausible that in a government with two extremist liberal parties, they will be able to stand up for conservative family values ​​or nation-state principles," Helme said, adding that Isamaa, which has a national-conservative platform compared with Reform and SDE's more liberal stances on, for instance, social issues, will see its worldview muddied somewhat by the experience.

Isamaa will also be propping up Kaja Kallas (Reform) as prime minister, Helme added, referring to the head of government as a failure in all areas.

Nonetheless, Helme said he thinks the coalition talks will succeed. "First, it must be understood that power has a very strong pull, the logic of power dictates that they move towards that outcome. Second, Isamaa now has a very strong trading position at the negotiating table."

However, he said, this will not be an advantage for an indefinite period.

"Should the current talks run on, they will no longer have this position, and they have created a difficult emotional background for the Center Party and for us, by showing us the door now," he added.

"I also cannot see how the current decision will end the stalemate in Estonian politics and quickly give us a strong majority government. Instead, I can see that these talks will last for weeks and that Estonia will not have a functioning government for weeks yet," he added.

Center and EKRE, both populist parties, were in office with Isamaa from April 2019-January 2021, while Isamaa's leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, has spoken relatively warmly of that experience.

Speculation has also been rife that Seeder will use the bargaining leeway to launch a bid to become prime minister, and has criticized Kaja Kallas for not standing down after she dismissed the seven Center Party ministers from office just over a week ago, continuing to head up a minority, Reform-only administration.

Seeder himself denies that this will be a negotiation requirement for Isamaa, adding that the matter was not discussed at Saturday's party board meeting, when the decision to join with Reform and SDE for talks, and not Center – who had also made overtures to the party – and EKRE, was announced.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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