Raul Rebane: Is the east wind stronger than west wind in Estonia?

Raul Rebane.
Raul Rebane. Source: ERR/ Hege-Lee Paiste

The biggest risk of the current political situation is that we will be left with two irreconcilable sides, similarly to the situation in USA, Raul Rebane finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

Chinese dictator Mao Zedong said in the 1960s that the East wind prevails over the West wind. The claim is currently being tested both in the Ukraine war and here in Estonia. I will look at the latter, as our political landscape is bubbling.

Lamenting the stupidity of everyone else has reached unprecedented levels. Everyone seems to be participating, from politicians and social media to its traditional counterpart and vox populi commentators. Much of the indignation is aimed at the Reform Party, while others still get their share.

There is no money, Kaja Kallas does not want to resign, the budget is in shambles, prices are going up, while the economy is in recession. The longest obstruction stint in history has MPs spinning their wheels. Little wonder then that the people's mood is below the "Kronstadt zero" as someone recently wrote on social media. Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has described the situation as abnormal.

But how did we get here? The board was largely set at the spring general elections. Allow me to recall that the recent election was not entirely ordinary. Around 50,000 more people voted since the previous time for a turnout of 613,000. This kind of mobilization usually happens as a result of fears in society, and whoever is the best at compensating for them tends to get the votes. The fear, cultivated by the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Center Party, of a Reform Party victory proved considerably weaker than the fear the elections would go the way of EKRE. The result is a Riigikogu where the coalition has 60 seats to the opposition's 41.

This result most obviously bothers EKRE. The party has also been the clearest in phrasing their goal of extraordinary elections. That is also the purpose of obstruction efforts in the Riigikogu in hopes that the parliament will fail to pass the state budget, which might lead to new elections. Whether the latter would prove successful [for EKRE] is unsure. Elections constitute taking inventory of major national trends and people do not switch out their ideology as often as they change socks.

The political struggle in Estonia is made distinct also because I believe the traditional left-right partition does not apply. Rather the axis used is East-West. The critics of this view say that EKRE are pronouncedly anti-Russia in their communication. This is just where the mistake is made. Words do not matter half as much as values. It makes little difference whether you attend church as long as you observe the ten commandments as you are still guided by Biblical principles. The same goes for politics. You are the values you hold sacred.

EKRE have been the clearest also in defining the enemies of their values system. They are the deep state, EU, cultural Marxism, Ukraine refugees, George Soros, climate policy and LGBT rights – all sporting clear eastern influences. But at least they have been consistent in this, which landed them 17 seats in the Riigikogu.

Processes inside the Center Party are much more interesting and have a strong potential to affect the Estonian political landscape. Things started happening after Mihhail Kõlvart was elected chairman. Kõlvart said on election day that the party aims to follow Edgar Savisaar's legacy, which had a clear eastern orientation. This has sparked protests and seen two MPs quit Center for Isamaa, leaving the party with just 14 Riigikogu seats.

Should Center come to look firmly to the east, there will develop a clear deficit on the social development, equal opportunities etc. market, with the Social Democrats ready to step in. This would be an interesting development. During budget talks, the Social Democrats managed to send certain social groups the right signals of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. While this might rub their partners the wrong way, the coalition stands.

The opposition also seems united today, while it will be interesting to see whether Isamaa will settle for playing second fiddle to EKRE for much longer. Center's change of course might also become a source of tension. But those who lack votes must speak the loudest, which Isamaa has managed to do and that has seen its rating climb recently.

Ilmar Raag took a look at the big picture in his article "State budget as a compromise without initiative" and proposed two solutions: increasing citizens' responsibility and growth through smart technology. But many are not willing to subscribe to this generally sensible position.

The biggest risk of the current situation is that Estonia will develop two nearly irreconcilable sides, as is the case in the U.S. Perhaps it has already happened. It stands for endless conflicts over Eastern and Western ways of looking at the world, and perhaps Estonia has also become a testing ground for whether chairman Mao was right about the East and West winds. In any case, the Estonian political landscape is not showing signs of cooling.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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