Kelam: Isamaa represents core values, not populism like EKRE

Tunne Kelam.
Tunne Kelam. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Isamaa veteran Tunne Kelam (86) tells ERR in an interview that he is running in the electoral district made up of Võru, Valga and Põlva counties to help his party and is prepared to join the Riigikogu again if elected. The former European Parliament member says that Isamaa is the only Estonian party to represent national core values, not populism, like EKRE.

Why did you decide to run in the district comprised of Võru, Valga and Põlva counties again? You skipped the 2019 Riigikogu elections.

Yes, I was a member of the European Parliament at the time. My motivation this time is to help Isamaa as the party does not have a strong supporter base in the area. It is only natural also because I was born there, in Valga County.

Are you prepared to join the Riigikogu if elected?

Yes, of course.

How do you see your chances?

I will refrain from predictions, but I decided to run to help Isamaa in Valga, Võru and Põlva counties, which is my main goal. Should the unexpected happen, I am ready to serve as MP.

What about Isamaa's chances? The recent Norstat poll gives your party 7.7 percent of the potential vote.

Those 7.7 percent usually grow to around 10 percent at elections. It is an Isamaa trademark. In the end, I'm running because Isamaa plays a decisive and constructive role in Estonian politics today, representing core values and not populism, like the Conservative People's Party (EKRE). That is why we are needed whenever a new government is being formed. We have made a constructive contribution and are trying to balance, and have balanced, different forces. For example, it is crucial that Isamaa holds the foreign portfolio today. It is what a small country must do – be active, unafraid of the big players, boldly represent principles and act, instead of surrendering to the majority. It is extremely necessary.

You mentioned the role of balancer and leadership in foreign policy, but what are the topics for Isamaa these elections, what matters to you?

This will be revealed in about ten days as Isamaa is set to present its elections program on December 16. But the core topics are still nationalism, strong family, which nothing can replace in a modern country. This leads us to family benefits, education policy and consistent traditional values, which we could also call Christian values. This means that values are not subject to fads but rather continuous, values such as honesty, consistency, staying true to one's word, respect for life and others. I see no one else defending such values these days. But they are necessary for a country and society to stay together.

How would you characterize Isamaa's campaign and elections team today?

It is a very solid team, and the important thing, as usual, is that we've also gotten new people. We also have such campaign cornerstones like [Foreign Minister] Urmas Reinsalu or Riho Terras, who has really proved himself in the European Parliament, who are foreign and security policy experts, active and unafraid to let others know where they stand. We have others. And I believe the campaign will be positive, constructive as opposed to a bludgeoning match. Because Estonia needs unity above all today. We are basically in World War III, and it is crucial to have national unity representing and defending interests that matter most. It is good that we have found it in defense policy, while we need it in other walks of life.

Can we look forward to any major, principled promises, such as the pension reform in this campaign?

We got it done and gave citizens the freedom to choose what to do with their savings. It is a crucial principle in a democracy based on the rule of law, and we got it done. I see no promises of this caliber right now, but as I've said, let us wait ten days, which is when we will learn more.

You are 86 years old. How's your health? Does it allow you to actively campaign and work as MP if elected?

Yes, I believe so. I was 78 when I last ran for the European Parliament and 83 when I finished. I have not had the flu for 15 years, nor have I ever been absent without good reason. Therefore, I believe things will be much easier in the Riigikogu where you don't have to take a plane every day.

What is your secret?

I believe it is positive attitude first and foremost, trying to find happiness and balance within, instead of blaming others. But the right diet, exercise and Christian values also play a part. Our lives do not have to be constrained by the narrow cycle of our physical bodies. And this makes a fundamental difference. Whether we do everything in this life in hopes that nothing will happen, or whether we know that life will continue in another form and we are responsible for all we've done here, good or bad.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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