One can increasingly hear concerned exclamations according to which Estonia would plot a course for Hungarian-style soft dictatorship or something worse should EKRE win the elections. The topic is exploited by self-styled liberal politicians and journalists who share the former's views and has now, quite expectedly, been hitched to the elections bandwagon.
All leading politicians are busy calculating potential coalition options ( for after the March 5 general elections – ed.). For example, it is only natural for the Reform Party to also be rooting for the Social Democrats and Eesti 200, while the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) is dreaming of a coalition that would make its chairman Martin Helme prime minister. EKRE no doubt wants Isamaa and the Center Party to win enough votes to resurrect their triumvirate.
In truth, very different coalition options are also on the table as a natural part of political choices and steps. No one has the right to dictate which parties can form coalitions and which cannot in the conditions of democracy. The fact that many in Estonia find EKRE distasteful is irrelevant. They represent their voters just like any other party.
However, scaremongering where the return of the three-way coalition [of EKRE, Center and Isamaa] would plot a course for dictatorship is harebrained nonsense. The views, interests and motives of the three parties clash in many fundamental matters. Just as the positions of the Social Democrats are not in perfect harmony with those of the Reform Party (defining more specific wishes and goals of Eesti 200 is more complicated still as the party has not managed to go beyond vague slogans).
Additionally, there is no reason to believe a party could take half the vote at the upcoming elections, not to mention two-thirds.
The record [general elections] result of 41 seats was achieved by the election coalition of the Coalition Party and the Rural People's Union in 1995. Luckily, election coalitions have since then been banned at Riigikogu elections. On average, the general elections winner has secured around 30 seats (Reform's 2019 result of 34 seats was remarkable). This has necessitated coalition or minority governments sides to which have kept the scales of power more or less balanced.
It is very difficult to amend the Estonian Coalition to make fundamental changes in terms of constitutional order. This complexity has ensured us constitutional and political stability.
I know many refuse to believe it, but Estonia really does have functional separation of powers. The Riigikogu and president balance out one another's ambitions, with many matters finally landing in the Supreme Court.
We have a very strong justice chancellor not afraid to take unpopular steps. For example, meet public opinion head on when it kept demanding new restrictions in the coronavirus crisis. And even though there is plenty for which the Estonian press might be criticized, we still sport one of the highest rates of journalistic freedom on the planet. We have four strong media houses, and it is impossible to subject all of them to the will of a single party.
EKRE's last government stint resulted in some embarrassing and scandalous moments, while it undoubtedly also shook our public service and made us look at things differently. We were witnesses to the grit with which other parties, the president, press and investigative organs dared oppose newly appointed EKRE ministers when they crossed the line.
I believe that grit is still very much there. Of course, there are those in EKRE who would love to ignore the law and rules, while they are also present in all other political parties. Show me a party members of which have not been taken to court in te wake of scandals of corruption, misuse of authority or just blatant embezzlement.
In closing. I have read more than a few pieces in which it is claimed that the green transition can only happen when it is centrally managed. Even some Estonian scientists find that we need strict guidelines for how people should live or act in the future. That we need a new and fairer, completely different society. And yet, no one rushes to interpret such statements as a desire for an iron fist and dictatorship. For some reason, certain things in public life and politics are permissible for Jupiter, while they still aren't for the cattle.
Editor: Kaupo Meiel, Marcus Turovski