Varro Vooglaid: Estonia has been moving in the wrong direction, and fast

Two anti-coronavirus restrictions and vaccination protests took place on Toompea on February 3, 2022.
Two anti-coronavirus restrictions and vaccination protests took place on Toompea on February 3, 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Varro Vooglaid, head of family values organization the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition (SAPTK) has shed some light on his recently-announced decision to run for the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in the general election next March, summing this up by saying that Estonia was moving very quickly in the wrong direction.

As to campaigning, with around 16 weeks to go to election day, Vooglaid, who, together with Markus Järvi the editor-in-chief of the SAPTK-run Objektiiv portal, declared his intentions to run, Vooglaid told ERR's Madis Hindre that: "I can't say anything about [campaigning] at the moment. When I state that our position is different from many others I mean in the sense that we don't have to start campaigning vigorously in order to explain to people what we want to stand for."

"I think a lot of people know what we have stood for, for many years. Now the question is more about whether what we have stood for will work for the people, and if it does, then that is good. If it does not, that is fine as we'll continue to act in the same way we've been doing up to now, trying to stand up for those principles that are important to us. But there are no concrete campaign plans in place yet."

The two are running in the Mustamäe and Nõmme (Järvi) and Haabersti, Põhja Tallinn and Kristiine (Vooglaid) constituencies, both in the capital, though are only on the EKRE electoral lists and not party members.

Vooglaid was unable to say whether he would be the number one candidate in the constituency (under the d'Hondt system of proportional representation used in Estonian elections, candidates are listed in order with the likely "vote magnets" placed at number one, or high on the list-ed.).

"This question should rather be put to the political party, because establishing electoral lists is within their competence."

As to why Vooglaid opted to run for EKRE, and to run at all, he said: "I have also already explained the reasons why I am taking this step in an article published on our portal, Objektiiv. As I outlined there, I actually would have liked to have had more time to prepare for this step."

"However, the events which have taken place in Estonia in recent years have created an understanding such that things are moving forward at such a fast pace, but in such a wrong direction" that there may not be much time left," he went on.

"Certainly the coronavirus 'dictatorship' seen last year brought with it a very serious impetus in reaching this decision, where it was observed that in exercising public power, they are ready to ride roughshod over the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of people. For me, this presents very serious alarm bells regarding the principle of the rule of law," Vooglaid went on.

"With what is happening in Estonia and the wider world in connection with the neo-communist program known as the green revolution, and in other aspects, it gives rise to the understanding that the time may simply have run out," he said, adding that this was why uniting all forces who were on the side of a free and fair social order in Estonia was paramount.

Since Vooglaid has criticized EKRE in the past, the question also arises as to both what distinguishes his politics from the party's and why run for them in that light.

Vooglaid said: "My political views are relatively well known already; I have never made a secret of them. It's easier for me to run than it is many others in the sense that I don't have to explain what I think is right and what I want to stand for."

This remained unchanged, he said, while there had long been common ground with EKRE on questions such as the rule of law principles, principles of ethics, and direct democracy, among other things, he said.

As to differences, one may be simply the extent to which SAPTK has gone in calling for things noted above, ie. further than has EKRE, not the least because SAPTK is not a political party and so has not been encumbered by coalition agreements (EKRE was in office at the national level April 2019-January 2021, with Isamaa and Center – ed.).

As to his criticism of EKRE, Vooglaid said this had been constructive.

"I don't think anyone could deny that this has been criticism of the sort that says that under no circumstances must we compromise on core values. This is a problem which tends to arise with political parties from time to time, namely that compromises are made in order to play off the different interests. This is what we have tried to maintain, that compromises can be made on practical, detailed issues – in fact they must be made if you want to achieve something in politics, but under no circumstances should it be done at the expense of principles and core values."

Vooglaid also called media attacks on EKRE in the past "absolutely despicable" and not something which he or his organization had done either with that party or any other, while for their part, EKRE had reacted appropriately and not become hostile.

"My wish is certainly not to become the mouthpiece of the party, but to still stand for ideals and principles, and if things start to get heated in some area, you must always say so boldly," he went on.

Vooglaid said that he would, if elected, certainly take up a seat, while if EKRE ended up in coalition, again the distinction would need to be made between essentials and those things on which compromise could be reached. He would not be drawn on anything beyond that, for instance hypothetically on taking up a ministerial post if offered one.

As to the first of these, in addition to the constitution and the rule of law, moral principles and a worldview derived from Christianity, but also from a natural law to which even non-Christians broadly apply themselves were key, and included the centrality of family, marital fidelity and chastity, as well as property rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief and freedom of speech. 

As to the position of Objektiiv and SAPTK and their financing, Vooglaid said that they would follow the rules in relation to campaign financing and running for office, noting that unlike some media, his publication does not carry political advertising by any party, while he and Järvi did not require any additional advertising, he said.

At the same time, the portal should remain as it is through to the election on March 5.

"I don't see any reason why, when we run for the Riigikogu, we shouldn't express our views through our own portal, as we have done before. I would be very, very surprised if this constituted any kind of violation," he went on.

Varro Vooglaid was talking to Madis Hindre of ERR's radio news.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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