Urmas Reinsalu and Tõnis Lukas, who are running for the chair of Isamaa, participated in a debate on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" webcast. The candidates shared a common understanding of the aims and future prospects of the Isamaa party.
In response to a question about why he should become the new chair of Isamaa, Lukas said, "I will bring my own experience in many areas of life, including areas outside of politics, and I believe my leadership experience is sufficient to move the party forward from where it is now."
Reinsalu praised Lukas' abilities. "If we recollect last year's coalition negotiations, I believe that Tõnis was able to push through the strategic decision for Estonia to transition to Estonian-language education. Tõnis has many strengths, including the ability to communicate with the Estonian cultural and educational communities. This is a very valuable asset," Reinsalu said.
"If I am elected, Tõnis would perform a crucial and essential role on my team," Reinsalu added. "I have also assured him that if the voters choose him on June 10, I will assist him in any way I can."
Lukas said, "In the current defense and foreign policy environment, Urmas' strengths are in fact inexhaustible. His zeal in pursuit of Ukraine is very inspiring."
"Both of us are well-suited to lead Isamaa," Lukas added.
The party needs more young people
Reinsalu said, in describing his own strengths, that he was able to recruit new Isamaa members. "People need to be inspired, to be interested, and they need to have a credible experience of success," Reinsalu said.
He said that the party's policies must be implemented differently. "My message is crystal clear: yes, we need change."
"We need to make changes in order for the party to be more effective in implementing its policies, because right now, while Isamaa is not in power, we can see a massive taboo breaking down: namely, that there is no alternative to Isamaa's policy if the survival of the Estonian nation-state is at stake," he said.
Lukas said that patriotic people must be in charge of the country during these challenging times. "Now we need to offer more than just specific objectives such as defense policy, foreign policy and population policy. What economy, school system or medical care can we debate about if there are no people? Population policy is central to our mission and, in fact, the most important topic for society as a whole," he said.
Nonetheless, Lucas said, Isamaa also focused on initiatives aimed primarily at younger people. "We will expand our calm and balanced environmental policy, and we could have a greater say in health and social policy."
What to do differently than Seeder?
Reinsalu, when asked what Isamaa should do differently than its current leader Helir-Valdor Seeder, said that as an opposition party, Isamaa should offer a positive political alternative to Estonian society.
Reinsalu explained, "This election campaign must be where we receive feedback from within the party as well as demanding and intelligent feedback from Estonian society on what package of changes makes sense."
Reinsalu said that the prospective Isamaa chair should conduct a party audit: "a functioning audit of the organization and an independent report."
Lukas said that Seeder, Reinsalu and himself had together led Isamaa so far but that member participation should be improved. "We have a long list of good people who must be given the opportunity to realize their potential, especially in Isamaa. That implies administrative work. I have the capacity and motivation to organize these things because I have headed numerous previous institutions," he added.
Lukas said that Isamaa should have a larger impact on educational policy: "We certainly have credibility here and this is how we appeal to young people."
Furthermore, he emphasized that Isamaa is also an economic and enterprise-oriented party.
A lively debate, according to Reinsalu, is a sign of a healthy and evolving organization, but if the party's desired outcome has not been achieved, then adjustments are needed, he said. "It is evident that change is necessary and this is where the organization must start."
How to appeal to young people who do not share the values of Isamaa?
Reinsalu, when asked how to appeal to a young person who does not want to have children and who may also disagree with Isamaa on the issue of same-sex marriage, said that a thriving conservative party should not impose its beliefs on individuals. "Childbearing and family are still a matter of feeling good and of feelings of affection. It cannot be inferred that we are imposing these choices on people," he said.
Reinsalu said that he disagreed with the notion that society has become more liberal.
Isamaa, according to Lukas, must support young families. "Lifelong hedonism cannot be the only solution; we all mature. They, too, will outgrow this phase, and ultimately, families with children are Estonia's future. Individuals make their own decisions, so we will not impose this," Lukas said.
Editor: Kristina Kersa