The incoming Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition has announced its new ministers, and while some are returning to office – both from the previous administration and from further back in time – there are some new faces in the mix too. The number of positions has been cut by two, also, with amalgamations of previously separate roles getting round this.
ERR News has put together this short piece with all the members, as they were announced on Saturday, April 8. The lineup is provisional, subject to voting at the Riigikogu next week as well as the official and ceremonial boxes to be ticked.
The incoming coalition replaces the Reform-Isamaa-SDE government. This had been in office (since July 18, 2022) for such a short time, that a baby conceived on the night of that coalition's inception may very well still have a couple of weeks or so to go till birth...
At the time of entering government, the temporary nature of the late coalition was in any case noted by its participants, if not in those terms.
Leaving office next week will be all five Isamaa ministers: Urmas Reinsalu (foreign minister), Riina Solman (minister of public administration), Lea Danilson-Järg (justice minister), Kristjan Järvan (IT and foreign trade) and Tõnis Lukas (education).
Two ministerial posts cut
Even as they are returning to office, Reform will also lose, as government ministers at least, Annely Akkermann (finance) and Urmas Kruuse (rural affairs), while Piret Hartman (culture) and Peep Peterson (health and labor) will not be returning to the Stenbock House for SDE.
There are 13 ministers, including the prime minister, two fewer than in the last administration.
Eesti 200 enters office
Four of the proposed new ministers have no previous experience at this level (compared with seven out of 14 in the Reform-Center coalition, in office 2021-2022).
Seven ministers are returning from the previous administration, either to the same role or to a new one.
Eesti 200 is entering office for the first time ever, having won its first ever Riigikogu seats on March 5.
By gender, five of the ministers are women and eight are men, compared with seven women out of 15 in the preceding coalition.
Division of ministers
One break with tradition relates to the proportion of ministers per party. Whereas in the past, these were divided up equally, regardless of how many seats a party had to its name, this time around they will be roughly allocated in proportion to Riigikogu representation.
Reform won 37 seats on March 5, compared with 14 for Eesti 200 and nine for SDE.
Accordingly, Reform gets seven ministerial posts, and the other two parties get three apiece.
Eesti 200 will also get the Riigikogu speaker position; at the time of writing the party's leader, Lauri Hussar, is nominee to that role.
Another change is that two ministerial posts (and ministries) are being set up. The minister of regional and rural affairs will replace the former public administration and rural affairs positions, while the minister of IT and economic affairs takes on most of the tasks formerly performed by both the IT and foreign trade minister, and the economic affairs and communications minister.
There will be some other administrative changes and reallocation of responsibilities, as part of the incoming coalition's stated aim of making cuts with an aim to a balanced budget, but so far as the ministerial posts go, things will be as follows.
The Reform Party gets the prime ministerial post, and the minister of social protection, the defense minister, the justice minister, the finance minister, the culture minister and the minister of climate – the latter also a new role, replacing the former environment minister position.
Eesti 200 will get the foreign minister post, as well as the minister of education and the minister of IT and economic affairs.
SDE will provide the interior minister, the health minister and the minister of regional rural affairs.
Reform Party ministers
Prime Minister: Kaja Kallas
Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas will return as prime minister, overseeing her third administration in an unbroken run going back to January 2021, when she first became head of government. Kallas is a former MEP, and has frequently appeared in the international media after Russia's invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022.
Minister of Defense: Hanno Pevkur
Hanno Pevkur became defense minister in July last year with the entry into office of the Reform-Isamaa-SDE coalition, and has held three ministerial posts in the past. He is also a former deputy speaker of the Riigikogu. Given the changed security situation, his position is one of the most scrutinized in the media.
Minister of Social Protection: Signe Riisalo
Another returnee is Singe Riisalo, who has held the post since January 2021, initially in the Reform-Center coalition. Riisalo had been a long-serving social affairs ministry official, before entering into politics.
Minister of Justice: Kalle Laanet
Kalle Laanet is returning to government after a spell of a few months. He was defense minister from January 2021 to July 2022. His resume includes stints as deputy director of Europol (2011-2015) and director of Estonia's Police and Border Guard Board, plus he was interior minister 2005-2007, at the time as a member of the Center Party.
Minister of Finance: Mart Võrklaev
One of two first-time ministers from the Reform Party, Mart Võrklaev was the party's Riigikogu chief whip at its XIV session (2019-2023). He is also a former mayor of Rae Rural Municipality, just outside Tallinn
Minister of Culture: Heidy Purga
Heidy Purga is a former TV and radio presenter and was an MP in the preceding two (XIII and XIV) Riigikogu compositions. She is also a former producer of Eesti Laul, Estonia's annual competition to find its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, and is a past member of ERR's Supervisory Board, where she represented the Reform Party. This is her first ministerial position.
Minister of Climate: Kristen Michal
Kristen Michal was most recently Reform's chief whip at Tallinn City Council chambers, where the party is in opposition, though his political career dates back far further than that. He has held two ministerial posts, most recently in 2015-2016 when he was economic affairs minister under Taavi Rõivas, and he was Reform's secretary general, starting 20 years ago, until 2011. He has been a Riigikogu MP across no fewer than five Rigiikogu compositions, starting with the X Rigiikogu in 2003, and won a seat at the March 5 election too, making it six. However, since government ministers do not sit in parliament, he will not take up that seat, which will go to an alternate member.
His post, however, is a wholly new one.
Eesti 200 ministers
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Margus Tsahkna
While Eesti 200 is entering office at the national level for the first time ever, Margus Tsahkna is not – he was defense minister 2016-2017 under Jüri Ratas, and was leader of Isamaa, then known as IRL, at the time. He also held the social protection minister portfolio prior to that.
He will be the new foreign minister, also a position which attracts plenty of media attention.
Minister of Education and Research: Kristina Kallas
Kristina Kallas, no relation to the prime minister, co-founded Eesti 200 and was its leader until October last year. A University of Tartu academic, she has also served on the city council in Estonia's second-largest town.
Minister of IT and Economic Affairs: Tiit Riisalo
A first time minister for a new ministerial position, Tiit Riisalo is also a former IRL secretary general, having held the post 2012-2015. More recently, he was director of the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia, during Kersti Kaljulaid's term (2016-2021).
All three of SDE's ministers served in the last administration, though two of them are going to new posts.
Minister of the Interior: Lauri Läänemets
Lauri Läänemets has been SDE chair since February 2022 and was interior minister in the last administration, where challenges included resolving the issue of an inappropriately-placed World War Two Soviet tank, which was removed from its plinth just north of Narva in summer 2022. He is a former mayor of Väätsa, a rural municipality in Järva County, prior to the 2017 redrawing of local government boundaries.
Minister of Health: Riina Sikkut
Riina Sikkut was runner-up to Läänemets in the SDE leadership contest in 2022, and was economic affairs and communications minister in the outgoing coalition. This will be the second time she has held the health minister post, having done so 2018-2019.
Minister of Regional and Rural affairs: Madis Kallas
Also returning to office, though to a different post, is Madis Kallas, again no relation to the prime minister. Kallas is a former mayor of Saaremaa, while his first appointment in national politics came July last year, when he was made environment minister.
The above line-up is as reported on Saturday, April 8, 2023, and will be subject to a vote at the Riigikogu next week. Since the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition has 60 seats all told, at the 101-seat Riigikogu, it is highly likely that it will pass the vote.
Formalities including being presented to the head of state, and taking the oath of office before him at the Riigikogu, will follow, all likely in the next few days.
The outgoing coalition remained in office as a caretaker administration after the March 5 election, and will formally leave office next week.
Editor: Andrew Whyte