Liina Kersna (Reform), former minister of education and current member of the Riigikogu, commented in the podcast "Otse uudistemajast" on the party's stance towards scandal-hit Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform): "You have to stand up for your people, but at some point, standing up for them can start to work against them."
Speaking about the Reform Party's support of Kaja Kallas, Kersna said that political scandals have shown that a decline in party support always comes with a slight delay. "When there is a scandal, it is common for the supporters to stand behind the leader even stronger, as if the harm has been done to one of their own," she said.
"Regarding resignation, I believe there are two important considerations: first, whether you have the authority to continue after a scandal, and second, whether the scandal permits you to perform the duties for which the taxpayer is paying you. And it is very difficult to say from the outside; it has to be known by the person who's affected. For example, I understood very clearly as the minister of education that I am doing an hour and a half of interviews a day to explain the nuances of the procurement of rapid tests [Kersna was embroiled in a scandal of her own at that time], while I should be actually spending that time developing and managing the education sector, not explaining myself. I felt that it would be better for the country if I resigned and someone else took over. But it is a matter of personal judgement," she said.
Kersna pointed out that the instinct to stand up for your people is also present in other organizations, and that in general, one should do so. "But at some point, standing up for your own people may begin to work against them. And at that moment you have to recognize that this 'holding on' is no longer beneficial to them," she said.
Kersna recalled the moment when former Culture Minister Rein Lang (Reform) was forced to resign. "Before he made that decision, Ain Lutsepp, who was then the leader of the actors' union, appeared on the news program, stating that the actors had no confidence in him. The next day, I went to Stenbock House and told him that there was no other option. When Ain Lutsepp makes such a statement on "AK," it is very difficult to continue. It is possible; it is certainly possible, but is it good to the sector? I doubt it," she said.
Kersna: Kallas senses loss of authority
Kersna believes that what is going on with Kallas is a political incident that will be scrutinized for a long time. "Kallas has become a hero, a politician in a whole other category, who has done something that no other Estonian politician has been able to do before: in foreign policy she has clearly made our small Estonia much bigger than we are. At the level of the prime minister and at the level of operational policy, excellent. And there is nothing wrong with that; as the mountaineer Alar Sikk also says, descending a mountain is always more difficult than ascending it," Kersna said.
Kersna said that Kallas herself perceives a decline in her authority and credibility. "The question is how much she has weakened and how she feels about it, whether she can continue or not. It seems to me that her own assessment, and in fact that of the Reform Party leadership, is that it is certainly not responsible to resign now, that we have to get the budget done and this country has to be running, but the damage has certainly been done. I fully agree with this and the situation is not easy at all," Kersna continued.
Kersna: I will not run for party chair
Kersna did not comment on the speculation that Kallas might submit a letter of resignation to the Riigikogu after the budget is handed over. "I really don't know. What I do know is that Kaja is currently the only one in the Reform Party who has said that she is going to run for party leader. I do not know of anyone else who has promised to do so. What anyone has in mind, I can't say, but that is the knowledge we have today. Kaja has said that she is going to run again for chair."
Kersna added that she had not heard that Kristen Michal or Hanno Pevkur or anyone else had declared their intention to challenge Kallas for the position of party leader.
"I will certainly not stand as a candidate for the chair of the Reform Party in the next four years," she said.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa