PM Kallas compares opposition's actions to the conduct of prewar Russia
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Tuesday compared the way the Riigikogu opposition conducts itself to how Russia treated the West before attacking Ukraine. The PM said that the opposition cannot dictate to the coalition what kind of bills the ruling parties can introduce.
Kallas talked about the opposition's filibustering in the Riigikogu on the "Stuudios on peaminister" radio program and was very critical.
"Suggesting that the bills we can introduce in the parliament need to be coordinated with the opposition is unconstitutional. The Riigikogu must be able to process all bills, deliberate matters, and we can sit down and look for compromise once they have made their proposals to amend. And unlike the EKREIKE government (EKRE, Center Party, Isamaa) that completely ignored everything we introduced, I have shown through action that I'm willing to sit down with them, listen to their concerns and consider them," Kallas said.
"I feel that EKREIKE is taking advantage of our goodwill," the PM remarked.
Kaja Kallas compared the relationship between the coalition and opposition to those of the West and Russia before the latter attacked Ukraine.
"They were making demands, asking what the West could do to de-escalate the situation before Russia attacked Ukraine."
"We did not create this situation. There was an election, there were winners and there were losers. While Reform also won the 2019 elections, EKREIKE had the votes to oust us, and I accepted it as part of the democratic process," Kallas said.
Right now, the opposition is resorting to the same tactic used by Russia. "First, you demand rights you never had to begin with – the opposition getting to dictate what bills you can introduce in the first place. Second, you throw threats around and use power plays. Thirdly, you hope someone will offer you something you did not have before as a result of all this."
Kallas also drew another historical parallel. "We cannot compromise our values. That is the kind of horse trading that we should not be seeing, the kind of blackmail. Looking not only at Estonian history, but that of other countries, for example, Germany where Hitler's party halted the work of the parliament – these are terrible examples," the PM suggested.
"It seems to me that not everyone has realized the seriousness of the situation," she added, also suggesting that EKRE's refusal to acknowledge the current government is a threat to democracy.
Host Mirko Ojakivi asked Kallas whether she believes it possible to amend the Riigikogu Rules and Procedures Act [to render obstruction on this scale impossible] and tie it to a government confidence vote.
"The Riigikogu will have to discuss its procedural rules itself. It would not be good coming from the government. I do not see the possibility currently."
Talking about tax hikes, the PM said that slight changes to the tax rate do not really necessitate more thorough analysis and involvement.
"Let us take the VAT Act. What is there to include and discuss if the tax rate is 20 percent, 22 percent or 24 percent?"
She said that the bills are being pushed through parliament in expedited procedure to honor the six-month period between a law being voted in and entering into force.
"It is hardly possible to blame the government for getting down to business. We have hardworking people," Kallas remarked.
But she admitted that the proposed tax rates could still change in the course of consultations with target groups and during Riigikogu deliberations.
The prime minister also said that it was painful for her to read the recent open letter in defense of traditional marriage by 59 public figures.
The undersigned include former Justice Minister Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa); writers Indrek Hargla, Hando Runnel and Indrek Hirv; composers and musicians Sven Grünberg, Jaak-Eik Tulve and Tõnis Mägi; actors Liina Olmaru and Lembit Peterson; as well as businessmen Indrek Neivelt and Heldur Meerits.
"To suggest that people without children have contributed nothing to the development of Estonia is incredibly insulting. It was painful to read," Kallas said.
"The question is whether we will give everyone equal rights or not," Kallas said.
Under the new amendments, which the government approved on Monday, marriage can be contracted between two adults irrespective of their sex and, in addition to marriage, people will also still have the opportunity to conclude a registered partnership contract.
Ratas: Kallas should not wave the Russia card
Center Party Chairman Jüri Ratas called Kallas' comments "completely inappropriate" on Tuesday evening.
"Opposition to the cuts in family benefits that were passed five months ago by everyone, including the Reform Party, and to tax increases that were not even mentioned during the elections, is a normal reaction. To compare it with anything like Russia's pre-war behavior and Hitler's Germany is totally inappropriate and absurd," said Ratas.
He said the attitude shown to the opposition parties does not help to reach a solution.
"All this does nothing to build the slightest bit of trust in the halls of the Riigikogu and between the Riigikogu and the government. I understand that the prime minister is trying to use her successful foreign policy image for domestic policy, but I doubt very much that it will work in this way. Instead of such comparisons, I would expect a more constructive approach! The prime minister should not be so lax in waving the Russian card," said Ratas.
Ratas added that Kallas does not understand the consequences of her actions and does not completely understand why today's situation has arisen.
"Proposals are processed at turbo speed so that there is minimal and apparent involvement. And anyone who opposes this madness is an enemy of the state. It sounds more like another country than Estonia," said Ratas.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Jüri Ratas.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski