Martin Mölder: New face of the coalition
The differences between the ruling parties were reflected clearly in their choice of ministers. The Reform Party chose to stick with tried and tested people, while both Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE) made much more strategic use of the government change, Martin Mölder finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
On the one hand, the new government constitutes the return of the good old triumvirate [of the Reform Party, Isamaa and SDE]. The parties were last together in Taavi Rõivas' government until the fall of 2016. Back then, the coalition collapsed as the junior partners found Jüri Ratas, who had just taken the reins at the Center Party, to be a better choice for PM than Rõivas. This was six years ago. Many things have changed since and the new three-way coalition does not really compare to the old trio.
First of all, the two junior partners are in a much better and stronger political position. SDE and Isamaa especially managed to include their core topics in the government's political program. The family benefits hike, electricity market reform, switch to Estonian education, basic exemption hike, welfare services reform.
In fact, not a single notable policy of the new coalition seems to be the sole contribution of the Reform Party. National security, that the coalition agreement highlights, is a priority for everyone.
One cannot help but think that Reform's desire and priority was to hold on to the prime minister's seat and its position at the head of the government. This betrays an important contrast between the partner that also manifests in other choices. Namely, that the Reform Party is largely ruling-oriented, while SDE to some extent and Isamaa especially are much more policy-focused.
This is perhaps one of the most important changes since last time. Isamaa was hardly policy-oriented back then and in this respect resembled Reform. Isamaa today has much clearer political goals and the strength and mental fortitude needed to promote them.
[SDE leader] Lauri Läänemets is also politically much more viable than his predecessors Indrek Saar, Jevgeni Ossinovski, Sven Mikser and Jüri Pihl.
That is to say Isamaa is well-placed to catch the eye of voters who prioritize national and family values, while SDE is equally poised to reverse its long-time downtrend that started back in Mikser's day.
The differences between the ruling parties were reflected clearly in their choice of ministers. The Reform Party chose to stick with tried and tested people. Of course, they could hardly afford to leave their existing ministers without a job. Their only change - replacing Kalle Laanet with Hanno Pevkur as defense minister - likely reflects in-house hierarchies and food chains and should not be seen as a political move. Pevkur had to surrender his post as Riigikogu vice president to [Isamaa chairman] Helir-Valdor Seeder and was compensated with a place in the government.
Both Isamaa and the Social Democrats made much more strategic use of the government change.
Riigikogu elections are just around the corner, and parties are busy contemplating campaigns and the elections. Introducing new faces to the government is a great way to bring potential new vote magnets into politics at just the right time.
Isamaa and SDE need to put in a strong showing at the March elections, and their ministerial picks suggest both have realized and are working towards this.
For those ministers to be attractive at elections, they will need to remain in office and come off likeable in the meantime.
Isamaa's choice of ministers also betrays its much stronger than previously focus on policies.
[Minister of Entrepreneurship and IT] Kristjan Järvan and [Minister of Justice] Lea Danilson-Järg have stood out defending core Isamaa policies despite conflicts and public criticism. While they lack direct political experience, both are tireless political fighters with thick skin and endless persistence.
Their appointment suggests that Isamaa is not only giving thought to finding new elections candidates but also who could represent and defend their political positions in the government the most effectively.
It is clear that the new government will not have an easy time of it. This is due to the opposition on the one hand, where both the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and the Center Party will be competing for the position of best alternative to Reform. But the government is also likely to see opposition from the media and public opinion aimed against a politically strong Isamaa.
If the aim of national conservative Isamaa could be to come off as a politically dynamic but less controversial alternative to EKRE, the rather social-liberal public mainstream will probably try to paint it as a less confident EKRE in disguise that should not have a place in Estonian politics.
Politics is far more prevalent in the media and social media today than it was six years ago.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Marcus Turovski