Opposition: Were Kallas to step down, same coalition would remain in office

Riigikogu's main debating chamber.
Riigikogu's main debating chamber. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition would remain in office even if Kaja Kallas were to resign as prime minister, opposition leaders find, days before the Riigikogu reconvenes for its fall session.

Chair of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Martin Helme told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Friday that: "Noone is talking about any potential new coalition in Toompea at present. Everyone more-or-less understands that if the prime minister is replaced, the coalition would continue, in its current composition."

Martin Helme (EKRE). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Isamaa chair Urmas Reinsalu concurred, adding that this gave the lie to perceptions, including a perception held by the prime minister herself, of Kallas being somehow indispensable.

"The perception of Kaja Kallas and her entourage that she is irreplaceable is not the case," Reinsalu said.

Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

"I think that the expectation is that a government member of the Reform Party will replace Kaja Kallas, and they will be able to, purely from an objective perspective and leaving aside personalities, be able to do so more effectively, simply because their moral capital is not damage goods, both inside and outside Estonia," he went on, referring to the recent controversy over the prime minister's spouse having held a significant stake in a firm which continued to do business in Russia down to the present.

Jüri Ratas, outgoing Center chair and the person whom Kallas unseated as prime minister in early 2021, told AK that unless Kallas resigns, the work of the Riigikogu will grind to a halt.

Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

"My belief is that a leader must always feel that their actions have ramification. But today, Kaja Kallas is keeping the whole of society in a stalemate situation. [Her resignation] would certainly improve the health of today's coalition, while the fear that EKRE would then come to power is not true," Ratas, a former Riigikogu speaker and current deputy speaker, said.

While so far as procedure goes, a prime ministerial resignation is accompanied by the wholesale resignation of the government – as happened in January 2021 – the number of seats Reform has at the Riigikogu (37 out of 101) means in practical terms there would be no reason for the existing coalition alignment to reenter office, the opposition leaders believe.

This does not mean that the coalition does not have its own internal issues, Martin Helme said, with Eesti 200 rumored to be facing a leadership change.

The coalition leaders themselves, even the Social Democrats (SDE), the coalition partner which has been most lukewarm to Kallas since the current controversy broke.

SDE leader and interior minister Lauri Läänemets said that the cooperation with Reform and Eesti 200 had been "very strong."

Lauri Läänemets (SDE). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

"Naturally, there are points, certain socioeconomic ones, on which we disagree strongly, but in the big picture, we enjoy common ground," he went on.

Reform and Eesti 200 together, without SDE, would have 51 seats, the bare minimum needed for a majority; the threat of filibustering of legislation once parliament reconvenes on Monday means that the coalition even with its current 60 seats may have a hard time getting legislation passed.

The 2024 state budget bill is the most prominent of this legislation.

Reform's Hanno Pevkur, the minister of defense, said the cabinet has not allowed any external scandal to interfere with its work.

Pevkur said: "Fortunately, the coalition partners have all grasped that the state budget needs to be adopted, and in order for the Estonian state to function to a degree of normality, these disputes need to be dealt with and avoided, so that we get a state budget in a normal way. And in this sense, this discussion has been very constructive."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Iida-Mai Einmaa.

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