Expert: Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition would not last full four years

Martin Mölder.
Martin Mölder. Source: Lauri Varik

A coalition consisting of the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats (SDE) is unlikley to last the entire four years until the next Riigikogu election, according to one analyst, who sees Sunday's virtual landslide victory for Reform as heralding a return to the Andrus Ansip era, in terms of the party's dominance at least.

Appearing on Vikerraadio show "Vikerhommik" Wednesday, Martin Mölder, a political scientist at the University of Tartu, said: "In considering many other opportunities the Reform Party has at this Riigikogu and in forming a new government, - this [coalition with Eesti 200 and SDE] is but one of four opportunities ... and considering how strong their position is right now, I don't think this coalition will last four years."

The prime minister only announced on Tuesday that she was inviting Eesti 200, which won its first ever Riigikogu seats Sunday, and SDE, to the table for talks, though this alignment had been the subject of much speculation in the weeks leading up to the election.

The other three potential coalitions which would have ticked both boxes in terms of having a 51-seat or more majority at the Riigikogu (for voting-in purposes, not to mention voting on legislation put forward by the government) and not having significant worldview clashes were: Reform-Isamaa-SDE (a continuation of the current caretaker administration, in fact), Reform-Eesti 200-Isamaa and Reform-Center.

Reform could also form a coalition with Eesti 200 alone – this would have 51 seats, though, only a one-seat majority.

"We are very likely to see a change of government somewhere in the middle of this parliamentary cycle (ie. in the next four years-ed.), which would happen if one of the two smaller coalition partners either fails in something or gets exhausted in some way. Some kind of change is inevitable. Looking at the mathematics of the Riigikogu and the position of the political parties, it is very likely," he continued.

Precedent is also on the side of a mid-cycle change-up in coalition; traditionally, there are around two coalitions per election cycle, though the last election cycle actually saw three: The Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition (April 2019 to January 2021) was replaced by the Reform-Center bipartite coalition (to June 2022), which in turn was superseded by the Reform-SDE-Isamaa administration.

At the beginning of the cycle, Reform as largest party by seats had been invited by then-president Kersti Kaljulaid to form up a coalition, but failed to do so when only SDE would talk to the party, giving an insufficient number of seats.

Mölder called it "completely understandable" that the Reform Party will decline to distribute government ministerial positions equally between the three parties; party chair and prime minister Kaja Kallas has already made that clear.

"In a sense, we are back to the years 2007-2015, when the Reform Party was dominant and there were no coalition options which did not involve them. This means that they alone can decide what the rules of the game should be, while of course they will do that primarily in their own interests - the more ministerial positions you get, the better," he went on.

The current coalition, for instance, sees ministerial portfolios divided equally, five per party, even though Reform on it own had 34 seats (now 37) when it entered office with Isamaa (which then had 12 seats) and SDE (then 10 seats).

All of the political parties apart from Reform and newcomers Eesti 200 saw a drop in their number of mandates: Center went from 23 to 16, EKRE from 19 to 17, Isamaa down to 8, and SDE down to 9.

Eesti 200 picked up the balance not already taken by Reform, by winning 14 seats.

Reform has ruled out only EKRE as a possible coalition partner.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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