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Kaja Kallas: Opposition putting on a spectacle in the Riigikogu

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Jürgen Randma/Government Office

The opposition parties are denying the results of elections, unable to accept defeat. I would suggest they recognize the results and decipher the message the voters sent to them, which could be the first step on the road to returning to democratic governance, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas writes.

Everyone has no doubt been captivated by the opposition's obstruction efforts in the Riigikogu in recent days. I have been asked to express my opinion or even make a statement, while I have refrained from that so far.

I believe that what is happening in the Riigikogu is a spectacle being put on by the opposition, which is aimed both at disrupting the work of the parliament and paralyzing the state as a whole. At the same time, these efforts are meant to look sympathetic, at least externally.

The opposition's proposals mostly betray the conviction that politics is a play meant to warm people's hearts and soothe their ears. Unfortunately, such merry spectacles can have serious consequences.

The first is paralyzing the work of the parliament and, in fact, provoking a constitutional crisis. The second result is that many – all if we're being honest –important decisions are put on hold. Including those aimed at strengthening our defensive capacity.

People might argue and ask whether a mere act of parliamentary obstruction amounts to a constitutional crisis.

But obstruction in the Riigikogu has never before been used to completely paralyze the parliament's work and that of ministries. It has been aimed at blocking individual bills and makes for an instrument in the opposition's toolbox. In situations where such confrontation takes a turn for the fundamental, the sides can look for a compromise or the government tie parliamentary votes to a vote of confidence.

The opposition has never before phrased its goal as EKRE has done this time: "...invite people to fight against this government of liberal liars that came to power through unreliable e-voting. The goal is to end Kaja Kallas' rule the first opportunity that arises." If that is not provoking a constitutional crisis, I don't know what is.

We took to elections with promises to ensure Estonia's security and tidy up our finances. Whereas the latter is a precondition for investing in defense. How might we fix state finances? There are two real possibilities: tax hikes or serious austerity. We cannot maintain the status quo as our income and expenses are seriously out of whack.

Unfortunately, we must both hike taxes and cut costs. Neither myself nor the government is willing to continue patching holes in the budget using loan money. Yet, this seems to be the only conceivable alternative as far as the opposition and the media are concerned.

"Economic gurus" have for years promoted so-called nonrepayable loans that countries never have to pay back. The interest payments sum of loans they have already taken will near €400 million the year after next. That is more than Estonia's entire culture budget (theaters, museums, the National Library, ERR etc.).

Over the last three days, the opposition has been introducing bills – the heartwarming and ear-soothing kind – that would hike public spending by another €3 billion. Whereas both cuts and tax hikes are found to be equally distasteful by the opposition. The government is urged to borrow "smart" and not think abut tomorrow. We will not, because it would be completely irresponsible, nor would it constitute a sustainable solution.

What baffles me about the situation in the Riigikogu is how successfully opposition politicians have managed to sell their narrative to the press. I am saddened to hear and read about the claim that the government wants to slash taxes for the rich at the expense of the poor. This claim defines people making between €1,200 and €2,100 a month as wealthy. But the same publications then find no fault with calling people making €1,200 poor, blaming the government for wanting to cut back their paid sick days. Decide something, dear journalists, in terms of whether people making €1,200 are rich or poor.

The second aspect that baffles me about the whole scandal is how quickly the former EKREIKE triumvirate (Center, EKRE, Isamaa – ed.) has come together. It wasn't long ago when Isamaa was accusing the Reform Party of lumping them in together with the disgusting EKRE, even though the two apparently have nothing in common. Isamaa couldn't bring itself to backing EKRE's candidate for Riigikogu vice president as recently as three weeks ago. They found the party and its chairman that distasteful.

The hatchet seems thoroughly buried now, just as long as the sides can keep piling on state spending, while telling fairy tales to the people. Those honeyed words were disrupted for a moment when one of the Helme family voiced their displeasure over the planned car tax as Ukrainians in Estonia would not have to pay it.

In a situation where Ukrainians are paying for our freedom with their lives, whether a future car tax will affect them in Estonia or not should be the last thing on a normal party's mind. But apparently taking this view is entirely kosher for both Center and Isamaa. I find it to be utterly unacceptable. What separates us from the values environment of EKREIKE in the current crisis?

A few examples:

  • We are not toying with the idea of including the principle of fiscal balance in the Constitution only for that idea and balance to be thrown out as soon as one of our financers gets an expensive obsession they are willing to pay for. We will really fix state finances.
  • We are not railing against our allies or those fighting for our freedom because we never intend to be alone again, we never intend to be someone whose disappearance would go unnoticed in the world.
  • We would rather have a car tax than "drinks for the car." We will not squander taxpayer money and want to leave our children with a cleaner environment and less debt.

The list goes on well into the night, while I would close with a short summary.

In the grand scheme of things, what we are seeing in the Riigikogu is denial. The opposition parties are denying the results of elections, unable to accept defeat. If immediately after the elections, only EKRE were spreading the narrative of a stolen election, it is evident that Center and Isamaa have now joined in. I suppose it is easier to live when you convince yourself that you are not the problem, that instead the "deep state" has stolen the election from you.

Believing this nonsense means one does not have to alter recent policy, have qualms or replace leaders. We have seen the exact same phenomenon in the U.S. where supporters of the elections loser tried to storm the parliament on January 6, 2021.

I would suggest opposition parties recognize the results and decipher the message the voters sent to them, which could be the first step on the road to returning to democratic governance.

The comment was originally published on Kaja Kallas' website.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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