Daily: Kaja Kallas' term as Reform Party leader expires in November

Kaja Kallas speaking at Reform's election night party, March 5, 2023. Kallas current term as party leader is set to expire on November 22.
Kaja Kallas speaking at Reform's election night party, March 5, 2023. Kallas current term as party leader is set to expire on November 22. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Amid all the raking over a scandal, now into its third week, concerning the business interests of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) husband, one small fact appears to have been overlooked until now, Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) reports – namely that Kallas' term as Reform Party leader is due to expire in a little over 10 weeks' time.

EPL notes that the Reform Party's board's powers, including those of its chair, ie. Kallas, expire on Wednesday, November 22 meaning that a party congress would be likely the preceding weekend and no later than Sunday, November 19.

Kallas can of course be returned for a new term as Reform's leader.

One unnamed, high-ranking politician from one of Reform's two coalition partners told EPL that the main question is whether Kallas goes or not – if she does not, she may even emerge stronger from the saga, off the back of an already very strong electoral result in March, while an Ides of March-type mobbing by members of her own party was unlikely, the politician felt.

Kallas herself said of the end of her term is far enough away for it to be too early to start talking about it, but EPL says that at the same time, a decision should not be left to the 11th hour, if that decision were to lead to a successor needing to be found.

Eesti 200 MPs have tended to side with Kallas – one, Igor Taro, said that the party was satisfied with her explanations over the situation while another, Peeter Tali, said that a lack of clarity over whether the Internal Security Service (ISS) had warned Kallas about her husband's business activity rose from misconceptions propagated by Isamaa MP Aivar Kokk, to the effect that she had indeed received such a warning.

Members of the other coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SDE), have been more critical of Kallas – one, Priit Lomp, said Monday's committee "could have gone better," while another, Raimond Kaljulaid, said he takes a similar line to the president, that full answers to all questions have not yet materialized, reiterating criticisms he had made over her communication and leadership through the scandal that he had also made in a piece penned for ERR.

Another unnamed SDE MP was even more damning, saying: "To descend to the level of Mart Helme's slander... This is not the level of the Prime Minister of Estonia."

SDE MPs also generally see the president's statements as a bad sign for Kallas, and in some cases, as with Kaljulaid, agree with Alar Karis' stance, while Eesti 200 MPs found the step the head of state made in speaking up over the issue to have been an unusual one.

Leaders from both SDE and Eesti 200 agreed that the actions of the opposition and in particular those of anti-corruption select committee chair Mart Helme have in fact helped her, while a threatened filibuster when parliament reconvenes last week will in fact have the effect of moving the scandal into the background.

The full EPL piece, which also examines the European dimension to the saga, since there are European elections taking place next year, is here.

Reform and Eesti 200 together have 51 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu, ie. the bare minimum needed for a majority (SDE bring another nine seats to the coalition).

Center, EKRE and Isamaa, in office 2019-2021, together have 41 seats in opposition.

Kaja Kallas became Reform Party leader in April 2018 when she was still an MEP, returning from Brussels that summer. She contested her first Riigikogu election as Reform leader in March 2019, and became prime minister in January 2021 following the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) in the wake of a real estate scandal involving party members.

Kallas has presided over three administrations; the Reform-Center coalition she first led ended when she expelled the Center Party ministers, in June 2022. After a period of a month of a Reform-only minority administration, the Reform-SDE-Isamaa alliance came next. This left office in April of this year after the March Riigikogu election and the signing of the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition agreement.

Names so far mentioned in the media as potential future Reform leaders include Climate Minister Kristen Michal, defense minister, and former party leader, Hanno Pevkur, and former education minister Liina Kersna.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: EPL

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